Winning the lottery? Writing a hit song? Having someone make medical decisions for you?
The first two may be unlikely, but more often than you may think, a stranger may make life or death decisions for you. There is a simple way to avoid this situation, but many people put if off for various reasons. What is it? A living will.
A living will is your written declaration which clearly states your wishes regarding the treatments you want or do not want in the event of a terminal illness or serious accident. It allows you to decide who you would want to make this decision if you are unable to do so.
In such a situation, most people would want to ease the burden placed upon their family and friends if they could. A living will makes it easier for your family and friends when they are faced with a crisis situation. It allows them to follow your wishes, which eases the pressures on them and helps avoid family disputes.
A living will has nothing to do with your property after your death, but protects your right to be treated in a particular manner before your death. It also does not deny you medication for pain although some paid medications may hasten death in certain medical circumstances.
After choosing to create a living will, the most important decision is deciding upon your personal health care representative. This should be a person you trust and who is emotionally stable to relay your wishes. Although many times this person is a family member, it does not have to be so. It could be your best friend, a companion or a religious person. Whoever it is, it is someone you trust to follow your wishes. It is also a good idea to have an alternate health care representative in case your first choice is unavailable.
Just as seasons and styles change, your relationship with your health care representative may change. A living will is flexible and may be changed at any time so long as you are mentally competent. It is also a good idea to review your estate planning documents such as a living will, power of attorney and last will and testament every few years to ensure they reflect your current wishes and situation.
So often our life is filled with missed chances. So do not delay. The next step is yours. Speak to your family, your family doctor or your religious advisor. Telling someone your wishes or writing them down on a piece of paper is a good start, but it is not legally binding. Decide what your choice would be and contact an attorney to help you convey your decision.
Nicholas Giuditta, an attorney in Cranford, NJ, has been assisting people in making their estate decisions for twenty years. For more information about living wills or estates, you may contact him at 908-709-1999 or visit his website at http://www.giudittalaw.com.