Do you know what a living will is? More importantly, do you know why you need one and how it can protect you and your family? While there are many legal documents you need as a part of your comprehensive New York estate planning, this is a critical document that can ensure your wishes are honored even when you are no longer able to communicate them.

It is important to decide early how you want your health care handled in the event you are in serious conditions such as a persistent vegetative state. These can be hard decisions for your loved ones to make and can be made easier with your planning in place to guide them. When you are using a living will as a part of your planning, there are five key questions we want to answer so you are able to better understand this part of your estate planning.

1. What is a living will? A living will is a legal document that allows you to determine your end-of-life medical care. It is used as a guide for your care if you are unable to communicate your wishes yourself. For example, should you be persistently unconscious due to a serious car accident, your living will guide your treatment path.

2. Who is this information disclosed to? Your living will is used by your doctor when you are unable to communicate your own decisions. This document goes into effect as soon as the document is signed.  In many cases, it is combined with a health care surrogate designation. Your health care surrogate will make every choice except your decisions for end-of-life treatment.

3. Do I need a lawyer to draft my living will?  Yes. Not only are there special provisions to be included and rules for properly executing this document, your lawyer is trained to answer your questions on the living will. Without a lawyer involved, you run the risk of creating an incomplete document that has no legal impact in New York.

4. What type of decisions do I make in my living will? Your living will primarily gives guidance in three specific instances: a terminal condition, an end-stage condition and a persistent vegetative state. In these instances, your living will can give directions including the withholding of medications and life-sustaining treatments.

5. Why do I really need a living will?  Without a living will, your family and decision makers are left to make emotional decisions about your care without any guidance on how you would like to be cared for. In these situations, tensions run high. You do not want to put your family in this stressful position or risk a decision being made that you would not agree with.

Do not wait to make your living will. If you have questions regarding this planning tool we encourage you discuss it in a meeting with us. Don’t wait to let us know by contacting us through our website or call us at (607) 962-6162.