Maybe you’re getting older, and you realize you need a plan for the future — or maybe the events of the last few years have made you more conscious of your mortality.
Either way, a living will is a good idea. A living will is a written declaration that helps clarify your wishes surrounding any health care decisions that need to be made when you’re unable to articulate your preferences.
New York doesn’t have a standard living will form, but it will recognize any directive you make as long as it gives “clear and convincing evidence” of your desires. A living will is an important companion to your medical power of attorney, your will and other estate planning documents — but they do require some careful consideration.
Several questions your living will should answer
Before you write your living will, you may want to talk to your doctor, your family and your spiritual advisor about the following issues:
- If your heart stops beating, do you want to be resuscitated by CPR or other means, or do you want to be a “DNR” (do not resuscitate) patient?
- Are you amenable to mechanical ventilation or tube feeding? If you’re unable to breathe or eat on your own, machines can help — but not everybody wants that for themselves.
- If you need dialysis, is that something you want? For how long? If your condition is unlikely to improve despite dialysis, do you want to let nature take its course?
- How do you feel about comfort care? Is there a certain point where you simply want to be given pain medication and other soothing treatments instead of actual medical intervention?
- How do you feel about organ donation? You can include your preferences about the donation of your organs, eyes and even your skin in your living will.
There’s a lot more to getting your estate plans in place than just a simple will. If you have questions, it might be wise to talk to someone with experience who can help you find the answers.