Preparing for the unexpected with a living will

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Leaving no time to prepare, sudden and serious illnesses and injuries may leave people incapacitated. If in a coma or otherwise unconscious, they cannot tell doctors the types of treatments they do or do not want. Instead, the decisions may fall into the hands of family members or other appointed representatives who may not share their beliefs and wishes.

To make certain their preferences guide decisions about their care, people may consider adding advance directives, including a living will, to their estate plans.

What is a living will?

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, a living will or declaration to physicians is a legal document many people choose to include in their estate plans. In a living will, people specify their preferences toward the types of life-sustaining treatments they would or would not want to receive in the event of permanent unconsciousness or a terminal illness or injury. For example, people may indicate through a living will that they would not want to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation if their hearts stopped beating or that they would want to undergo intubation to assist with their breathing if they could not do so on their own.

Why should people have them?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, including a living will in their estate plans often proves of value to people when incapacity strikes unexpectedly. Creating such documents before issues arise allows people to think about these potential decisions rationally and to clearly communicate their wishes.

When healthy, people often do not think about the possibility of incapacitating illness or injury. However, using advance directives such as a living will, they may ensure their voices get heard, even if they cannot speak.