A living will is one of the most important advanced medical directives that adults in New York can add to their estate plans. Often used in conjunction with healthcare proxy paperwork and powers of attorney, a living will specifically discusses an individual’s healthcare preferences for the purpose of securing the right treatment in the event of a medical emergency.
A healthcare proxy or power of attorney can give someone the legal authority to make decisions about another individual’s healthcare, but a living will is how someone can communicates their specific preferences regarding the medical treatment that they may need to receive.
In an emergency that leaves someone incapacitated, there may be questions about what kind of medical care they should receive. Healthcare providers will simply follow established best practices, although those standards could potentially violate someone’s religious beliefs or personal wishes. Providing instructions about certain forms of treatment, like transfusions and transplants, as well as guidance about life support and pain medication, can be important for those who have specific preferences regarding the care that they receive toward the end of their lives.
Preferred facilities and providers
A living will can provide guidance regarding the ideal facility for someone’s treatment when they are incapacitated or even a physician to oversee their treatment during that time. Although such instructions aren’t always enforceable, they can ensure that family members at least consult with a physician who better knows someone’s medical history and personal wishes than a stranger would.
If there is one decision that loved ones have to make in a medical emergency that causes distress, it would arguably be the decision about whether or not doctors should harvest tissue or organs for an anatomical gift. Family members may feel unclear about an individual’s personal wishes and may feel very stressed about needing to make that decision. Especially if someone does want to leave an anatomical gift, providing clear instructions about that in a living will can help their family members feel confident about making that choice.
When someone has strong preferences about their healthcare options, a living will can be a smart addition to their estate plan. Adding the appropriate documents to an existing estate plan can help individuals take control of their future medical care and give them peace of mind accordingly.