Creating A Living Will as Part of Your Estate Plan
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Pope John Paul II said, “The future starts today, not tomorrow.” As an estate planning law firm in Mesa, Chandler, and Phoenix, Phelps LaClair has helped many families with planning their estates. We can affirm Pope John Paul II’s words: planning today for tomorrow is the only real strategy to being prepared for what the future could bring. And that planning ahead includes creating a LIVING WILL.
Creating a Living Will
Though we cannot know how our life will end, we can be ready for the end by creating a Living Will. A Living Will is an integral part of your overall estate plan. It is a document that clearly spells out your personal wishes regarding your end of life medical decisions. As such, a Living Will is tremendously valuable for helping your loved ones at a difficult time in their lives. If you are ever in a coma or if the doctor has determined that you’re incapable of making decisions, your Living Will keeps your family from the heavy burden of wondering if they’re doing the right thing—because through your Living Will, you’ve already communicated your desires and wishes.
Answer These Questions
As part of creating a Living Will you’ll need to consider and delineate these questions:
—What is a meaningful quality of life for you?
—Do you want to be artificially kept alive if you are in a vegetative state?
—Does artificial ventilation (a machine breathing for you) count as “living” in your book?
—Do you want to be fed or hydrated through invasive procedures?
Answering these questions ahead of time can save your family members additional grief at a difficult time in their lives. Preparing your Living Will now is an act of kindness for them and a reassurance for you, that if the situation ever calls for someone to act on your behalf, you’ve already communicated your wishes to that person or persons.
Name a Medical Power of Attorney
Creating a Living Will must include choosing a Medical Power of Attorney (aka Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care). The Medical Power of Attorney is the person who carries out all the written directives that are included in your Living Will. Choosing the right person for this important position requires careful thought about what you’ll be asking them to do, should the time come for them to step into the role. That person will speak to the doctors on your behalf and will make medical decisions based on what you’ve communicated in your Living Will. Without naming a Medical Power of Attorney, the desires you’ve set out in your Living Will could go unheeded.
Include a HIPAA Release
As part of creating a Living Will and naming a Medical Power of Attorney, you’ll also need to create a HIPAA release. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and boiled down into simple language, a HIPAA release means you’ll be authorizing the medical personnel to speak to your Medical Power of Attorney about your medical condition. Without having a HIPAA release form in place, doctors would be prohibited under strict medical privacy laws from discussing your medical condition with anyone—even your spouse!
Forming an effective estate plan includes all three steps associated with creating a Living Will: establishing the Living Will itself, naming a Medical Power of Attorney, and forming a HIPAA release. As a 2nd generation estate planning law firm in Mesa, Chandler, and Phoenix, Phelps LaClair has been helping our region’s families establish strong estate plans that leave a legacy and prepare for the future today. If you have questions or you’d like to discuss your Living Will, please feel free to contact us. Or, we invite you to join us at any of our upcoming seminars on the Top 10 Estate Planning Mistakes. If you sign up and attend this FREE seminar, you’ll receive a complimentary dinner, a free attorney consultation, and a special fee discount. Don’t put off these important end of life decisions. Remember, “The future starts today, not tomorrow.”