People often assume that estate planning is only for the rich, but there are important pieces that apply to everyone—from those that are in nursing home care or facing life-threatening illness to those that have only just turned 18. Otherwise known as advance directives, these critical aspects of an estate plan can help ensure you receive the medical care you want, and they can aid your family and care providers when making important end of life decisions.
Power of Attorney
If, at any time, you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself, a medical or health care power of attorney can allow someone to make them for you. This person may be a spouse, a child, a friend, or even a specific member of your community. You are also permitted to choose one or more alternate decision-makers, should the person you appoint be unable to fulfill their role.
Careful consideration must be given when appointing a power of attorney; while other estate planning documents (such as a living will) may be present, such directives may not cover certain situations. As such, your power of attorney should be someone that:
- Meets all state requirements and is not directly assigned to your medical care or treatment;
- Is willing and able to discuss your wishes and beliefs on end-of-life care and quality of life;
- Can advocate for you if there is ever a disagreement regarding your care or treatment; and
- Is trustworthy enough to stand by your wishes.
A living will is different than a power of attorney in that, rather than appointing a person to make decisions for you, you have made your wishes known through an advance directive. Essentially, it covers what life-saving or life-sustaining treatments you are willing to receive. You can also address issues regarding pain management or organ donation.
Take time to consider the quality of life you are willing to live with. Also, spend time speaking with your doctor, family, friends, and any power of attorneys regarding your wishes, desires, and decisions about end-of-life care. In particular, consider the following:
- Do you wish to be resuscitated if your heart stops beating? If so, under what circumstances?
- Are you willing to receive mechanical ventilation if you are unable to breathe? If so, for how long and under what circumstances?
- Under what circumstances (if any), and for how long are you willing to receive nutrients and fluids through intravenous and/or stomach tubing?
- If your kidneys are no longer capable of functioning, are you willing to go on dialysis? If so, under what circumstances and for how long?
- If you are at the end of your life, would you rather infections or viruses be treated aggressively or left to run their course?
- If your death is inevitable, what sort of comfort care (palliative care) would you like? For example: Would you rather die at home than in a hospital? Should ice be used to soothe dryness of your lips? Do you want pain medication?; and
- Upon your death, are you willing to donate your organs, tissues, or entire body?
Need Help Drafting a Living Will or Power of Attorney?
There are many considerations to make when making end-of-life decisions, and, unfortunately, you cannot predict every possible circumstance. You can, however, seek assistance to ensure you have covered as much as possible in your estate plan, living will, or power of attorney. The end result can offer you peace of mind, comfort, and knowledge that, regardless of what life brings, you are as prepared as you can possibly be.
At Law Office of James F. White, P.C., we understand just how important and sensitive end-of-life decisions can be. And, with more than 40 years of combined legal experience, we can help provide the advice and insight often needed when weighing your quality of life over the length of your life. Compassionate and attentive, our Sugar Grove estate planning attorneys are here to help. Schedule an initial consultation with us today by calling 630-466-1600 today.