When people think of estate planning, they automatically think of wills, and maybe trusts. They think of the inheritance they hope to pass to their loved ones and their wishes on how assets are distributed. Rarely do people associate estate planning with end of life care.
The truth is people can use estate planning documents such as advanced health directives and living wills to notify their family of their wishes should they become incapacitated of unable to make medical decisions for themselves. This could include whether a person would want life-saving action performed should they need them, or whether they would want to be placed on a ventilator or other assistive device to keep them alive.
While these might be difficult decisions to make and even harder discussions to have with loved ones, they can help ensure family members that they are doing the right thing. Earlier in life is usually better to have these documents made. That way should they ever be needed or should a person's health rapidly deteriorate, the documents are already in place.
Doctors, along with an experienced estate planning attorney can help people make these documents and discuss their current health situation. Taking a family along with you, who might be making health care decisions for you, might be a wise decision.
Since people usually see their doctors more than their attorneys, some doctors are encouraging their colleagues to discuss these important planning documents with their patients. This can be a great way to reassure families and prevent uncertainty during an already difficult time.
Source: The Boston Globe, "Doctors have a duty to encourage patients to discuss end-of-life wishes," Kiran Gupta, Feb. 20, 2013
-Our law firm handles living wills in New Jersey. Please visit our website to learn more.