If you remember the case of Terri Schvaio, you understand the importance of having a written plan for your healthcare in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes. Ms. Schvaio was comatose for more than two months when the doctors caring for her declared her to be in a vegetative state. Her husband came to the difficult decision that her feeding tube should be removed, but Terri’s parents disagreed with his decision. The dispute between Terri’s husband and parents lasted seven years. Congress even got involved at one point and it sparked a national debate! Not only is this type of emotional turmoil devastating to a family, it is also financially overwhelming.
None of us know what the future holds for us, so it is vital that you make decisions about what type of medical intervention and treatments you want to receive if you are incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for yourself. You can make these types of decisions in an advance healthcare directive, which is also commonly referred to as a living will or advance directive. This type of document permits you to set forth whether you want to be kept alive on life support and under what circumstances you want life support removed. You can detail the type of extraneous measures that should be used to keep you alive. Making these decisions for yourself removes the heart-wrenching burden from your loved ones. It keeps family members from fighting over what you would want, because you have made your wishes known. An advance healthcare directive allows you to:
- Protect yourself. Making decisions about healthcare, especially in an end-of-life scenario, is personal and private. Only you know what you consider “living” and under what circumstances you want to be kept alive.
- Reduce medical expenses. Medical care is costly, especially when an individual is being kept alive by artificial means for an extended period of time. Even if you have insurance, it may not cover certain treatments or your coverage may run out. This can leave your estate liable for overwhelming sums. If you don’t want your loved ones to lose everything by keeping you alive artificially, you need a living will.
- Prevent litigation. If Terri Schvaio had a living will, it would have prevented her family from battling in the courtroom for years and incurring significant amounts of lawyer’s fees. One simple document can clearly state your wishes and ensure that your estate is used to provide for your loved ones, not to pay attorneys.
- Appoint a Health Care Agent. Rather than have several people trying to agree on managing your health care when you are incapable of making decisions, you can appoint an agent with authority to act on your behalf. You can also have alternates or successors if the first agent cannot act for any reason.
To learn more about creating an Advanced Health Care Directive or “living will” or other estate planning documents, contact us to schedule an initial consultation. We include an Advanced Health Care Directive in each estate plan we create because it is such an important document and is easily misunderstood.
The Astill Law Office has provided high quality legal services for over 30 years. We specialize in wills, trusts, estate planning, and asset protection. If you have any questions about creating a Trust, Will, or estate planning in general, contact The Astill Law Office at 801-438-8698.