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Do I need a living will as a part of my estate plan?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2023 | Estate Planning

When you go through the estate planning process in Indiana, you must decide what type of documents you want as part of your estate plan. You will most likely have a will and perhaps have a power of attorney drafted or set up a trust fund.

You might also think about setting up a living will. This is a document that states what you would like to happen if you are terminally ill and become incapacitated. This means that you do not have the physical or mental capacity to make end-of-life decisions on your own.

What is included in a living will?

In a living will, you state whether you would like to have life support measures taken when you are near death. Examples of these measures include a feeding tube, ventilator or performing CPR if your heart stops.

If you do not want any of these measures taken, you can explicitly detail that in your living will and state that you would like to die naturally. You can also complete a life prolonging procedures declaration, which is a document where you say you want life prolonging measures taken and how much.

While a will becomes effective when you die, a living will only takes effect if or when you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. Proof must typically be provided of the terminal illness, such as medical documentation of the diagnosis.

Living will v. medical power of attorney

It is important not to confuse a living will with a medical power of attorney. A living will only applies to end-of-life measures when you are unable to communicate what you want done.

However, a medical power of attorney allows you to give someone else the ability to make medical or health care decisions for you. A medical power of attorney can address end-of-life measures, but it can also address other medical decisions.

A medical power of attorney becomes effective when you become incapacitated. The person you appointed to make decisions for you, known as your proxy, then has the power to make medical decisions.

If you become conscious and able to make decisions for yourself again, your proxy’s power goes away, and you have the right to make your own decisions again.

Benefits of a living will

There are several advantages to having a living will. It reduces the burden and stress on your family members and loved ones because they will not wonder what type of lifesaving measures you want done.

Without a living will, your loved ones could end up in arguments over what you would want done. Most of them will likely have differences of opinion and their own personal beliefs may influence what decisions they make. Your living will can prevent these things from happening.

Additionally, you can rest assured knowing that you will receive the medical care that you want and will not receive any treatments that you do not want.

If a living will sounds like something you could benefit from, there are various requirements you must meet. It is important to know these requirements to make sure that your living will is legally valid.