Creating a Thorough Living Will

Plan 1

Even if a copy of your living will ends up at the hospital with you -- that's hardly guaranteed -- doctors routinely don't know how to interpret them. They may still leave friends and family confused about what you want.

End-of-life decisions are complicated, but they can be met with proper planning today to ensure your decisions will be carried out in the future.

So, have you executed your medical directive or living will? Was it one you created yourself or downloaded from the internet? If yes, you might want to reconsider that move while you can.

Bloomberg recently published an article titled “The Right Way to Craft a Living Will” that discouraged taking the self-help approach to this fundamental component of your estate planning. It is important to know there is a “right way to craft a living will” and it does involve more than simply signing on the dotted line of a pre-printed form.

Essentially, there may come a time when you are not “available” to make a medical decision – from resuscitation to feeding tubes to what-have-you. What happens then will depend, in large part, on how clear your instructions are. There are some definite shortcomings that can arise, particularly with those free forms you pick up online.

A medical directive or living will is designed to speak for you and be some kind of arbiter. Of course, you can only have so much forethought and the language used in any document can only be so clear. For example, the original article illustrates the complex issues surrounding the word “terminal.”

Given the difficultly attending the whole notion of predicting the course of your future health, consider appointing a trusted family member or friend to be your health care agent to make the decisions when you cannot. That way you are not merely trusting a piece of paper and the interpretation of the same.

Whatever legal arrangements prove to be the most powerful or expedient, the basic truth is that any plan can be put to paper. However, to be truly effective the contents of the plan on that paper and your specific wishes need to be communicated to the people who will be part of the process.

Make sure your loved ones know what your wishes are and that they will work to ensure that they are honored.

Reference: Bloomberg (April 9, 2013) “The Right Way to Craft a Living Will

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