Estate planning documents, including advanced medical directives, only do what you want them to do if your loved ones know they exist and can locate them.
For example, if you don’t want to be hooked up to machines or be subjected to other medical heroics when you are in an end-stage medical condition, you need a legally valid living will.
However, just having the living will is not enough. Your attending physician must have a copy of the living will in hand in order for it to be honored.
If no copy is available, either because your loved ones don’t know it exists or they know it exists, but can’t find it, it’s as if you don’t have a living will at all.
Then what happens is the burden is on your loved ones to decide whether or not to begin or continue life support. It will be harder for your loved ones to sleep at night if they have to make the decision whether or not to “pull the plug,” so to speak.
In addition, your loved ones may not agree as to what is the best course to take. What happens if some loved ones what no life support and no medical heroics and others want life support and all the medical treatment that is available?
Families are torn apart and lawsuits can continue for years. After all, Terri Schiavo was kept alive for 15 years because her loved ones disagreed as to the discontinuation of life support.
Each adult needs a comprehensive estate plan, including advanced medical directives. Be sure to tell your loved ones whether you have a living will and, if so, where they can find it, if the need arises. Any questions? Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.
Legacy APC, A Trusts & Estates Law Firm is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.