The Importance of a Living Will
It is difficult to imagine ourselves becoming so incapacitated that we can no longer make our own medical decisions. Yet that situation will arise for many of us at some point. In these instances, someone else, whether a designated relative, close friend, or the attending medical professionals may need to make the decisions that will alleviate a terminal and irreversible condition.
A Living Will is the legal instrument or advance directive that articulates your wishes at the point when you are no longer able to do so. Also known as a Healthcare Advance Directive, a Living will becomes your official statement about the extent of care you are willing to accept and that which you will not.
Types of Living Wills
In New Jersey, a Living Will may take different forms. For example, you may issue an instructive directive, proxy directive, or combined directive. These can be described as follows:
- Instructive: containing instructions regarding what should be allowed in specific scenarios.
- Proxy: contains no instructions other than to allow a family member or healthcare professional to make the final decisions.
- Combined: more comprehensive, this document will specify life-saving measures that should and should not be taken. This may also include instructions for organ donation, funerals, or disposal of the remains.
Steps to Creating Your Living Will
As a first step, you should talk with your regular physician to understand what sorts of medical conditions and circumstances may be covered by a Living Will. The most common guidance addresses the questions of whether to:
- Resuscitate, using CPR and other means if the heart has stopped beating. In many instances, individuals include a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) clause that suspends any further medical attempts.
- Remove breathing and feeding machines that have become the sole means for keeping the patient alive.
- Authorize pain medicines and in what quantities to relieve suffering.
- Remain in the hospital or be transported elsewhere once the illness has been deemed terminal.
- Donate organs after death.
- Donate your body to a medical research facility.
Contact Your Estate Lawyer
Once you understand how you would like these issues to be handled, contact an qualified Elder or Estate Lawyer to draft your Living Will. An experienced lawyer, licensed in your state of residence, can advise further about all potential scenarios and proceed to draft your valid Living Will. The directives in your Living Will guide medical professionals and family about how the circumstances should be managed.
As with your Last Will and Testament that divides your assets as you choose when you are gone, drafting your Living Will should never be delayed. As we know, unexpected circumstances occur, and these affairs should not be deferred until it’s too late.
Creating a Health Power of Attorney
In addition to a Healthcare Advance Directive, you may choose to designate someone to whom you endow the responsibility for making sure your final wishes regarding healthcare are honored. A Health or Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone you trust the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. The individual may be your spouse, a close relative, or a friend.
Before proceeding with this arrangement, make sure the individual, also known as your “agent,” is fully aware of your wishes and is willing to accept the responsibilities.
Be aware that the Health Power of Attorney only pertains to health decisions if you become incapacitated. This document does not authorize any financial or other decision-making on your behalf.
Contact Giuditta Law Offices
The Law Offices of Nicholas A. Giuditta III, an experienced New Jersey Wills and Estates Law Firm, is based in Westfield, New Jersey. The Firm provides residents of Union County and the surrounding areas with professional legal advice and support for estate planning, wills, powers of attorney, executor support, and other related matters.
To learn more about your Living Wills and Estate Planning, contact the Giuditta Law Office for a consultation. Phone for an appointment at +1-908-232-0099.