New Year's Financial Housekeeping: Have You Created a Living Will?
With the New Year approaching, now is a good time to take care of some financial housekeeping items that may have slipped through the cracks of your financial planning. In this article, we’ll explain why it’s important to create a living will.
Planning for Healthcare Emergencies
Nobody likes to think about things like becoming terminally ill or entering a permanent vegetative state. As unpleasant as they are to think about, it’s important to plan for what will happen in the event that such possibilities occur. The primary vehicle for doing this kind of planning is a living will — a legal document in which you express your wishes with regard to life-sustaining medical treatments should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate them yourself.
For example, if you are in a coma and doctors say there is no chance of your ever coming out of it, your living will would indicate whether you want your life to be artificially prolonged by machines and feeding tubes or not. Having a living will in place before such an event occurs will save your loved ones from having to make this difficult decision on your behalf. In some instances, life-sustaining treatment must be provided if there is not a living will, even if family members object.
Some people confuse a living will (also sometimes referred to as an advance directive or healthcare directive) with a last will and testament, but they are totally separate documents that serve very different purposes. A last will and testament indicates how your assets are to be distributed to your heirs upon your death, while a living will deals only with decisions to be made about your medical treatment should you become incapacitated as described above.
Your Advanced Healthcare Directive
A living will is often prepared along with two other documents: a healthcare power of attorney (or healthcare proxy) and a durable power of attorney. Together, these documents comprise what’s referred to as an advanced healthcare directive. A healthcare power of attorney is similar to a living will, but it becomes effective if you are incapacitated but not terminal or in a vegetative state. It designates an individual to make medical, but not life-sustaining, decisions on your behalf if you cannot make these decisions yourself.
A durable power of attorney, meanwhile, designates an individual to handle your financial affairs for you if you become incapacitated. This includes things like bill-paying and other routine financial tasks. It is called “durable” because the powers of attorney would continue as directed if your condition were to improve and then worsen again.
You may revoke your living will prior to becoming incapacitated. Otherwise, your physicians must follow your specific life-sustaining instructions as directed in your living will. An example of typical language in a living will might sound like this:
I want (or do not want) my life to be prolonged and I want (or do not want) life-sustaining or death-delaying treatment to be provided or continued if I am in a coma, including a vegetative state, which my attending physician believes to be irreversible. I want my healthcare agent to consider the relief of suffering, the expense involved and the quality as well as the possible extension of my life in making decisions concerning life-sustaining or death-delaying treatment.
The proper advanced healthcare directive forms for your state must be used in order to be valid, and they must be executed in compliance with your state’s laws. They become effective when presented by your agent to your physician under the proper circumstances. Given their importance, it may be wise to work with an attorney in the creation of your advanced healthcare directive forms.
Material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to be used in connection with the evaluation of any investments offered by David Lerner Associates, Inc. David Lerner Associates does not provide legal advice. Consult with your attorney or other qualified advisor before acting on any of the information included in this article. This material does not constitute an offer or recommendation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered in connection with the purchase or sale of securities. Member FINRA & SIPC
Founded in 1976, David Lerner Associates is a privately-held broker/dealer with headquarters in Syosset, New York and branch offices in Westport, CT; Boca Raton, FL; Teaneck and Princeton, NJ; and White Plains, NY. For more information contact David Lerner Associates 1 877 367 5960 http://www.davidlerner.com