Incapacity planning is an important part of any comprehensive estate plan. Advance directives are frequently used as part of an incapacity plan. If you executed a Living Will as part of your incapacity plan, it might be time to update it. Toward that end, a Westport estate planning attorney at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. explains when you should consider updating your Living Will.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive is a legal document that allow you to plan ahead and make your own end-of life wishes known in the event that you are unable to communicate those wishes at some later time and/or appoint someone to make decisions for you. State law dictates which type of advance directives are recognized in that state. In the absence of an advance directive, you have no guarantee that your wishes will be honored nor who will make healthcare decisions for you. The State of Connecticut recognizes the following types of advance directives:
- Living Will — a Living Will is a document that may state your wishes regarding any kind of health care you may receive. Should you be in a terminal condition or permanently unconscious, the Living Will can also tell your physician whether you want “life support systems” to keep you alive or whether you do not want to receive such treatment, even if the result is your death. A Living Will goes into effect only when you are unable to make or communicate your decisions about your medical care.
- Appointment of a Health Care Representative — A “health care representative” is a person whom you authorize in writing to make any and all health care decisions on your behalf including the decision whether to withhold or withdraw life support systems. A health care representative does not act unless you are unable to make or communicate your decisions about your medical care. The health care representative will make decisions on your behalf based on your wishes, as stated in a living will or as otherwise known to your health care representative.
When to Update Your Living Will
You should take the time to conduct a routine review and revision of your entire estate plan every few years; however, certain events, may call for a more immediate update of your Living Will, such as:
- Before a scheduled surgery – people often execute a Living Will without giving the decisions made in it much thought. If you are scheduled to have surgery, that’s a good time to review your Living Will and really think about the provisions in it just in case they are needed.
- When you become a parent – life, or more specifically the importance of life, sometimes takes on a heightened importance when you become pregnant, making it a good time to update your Living Will.
- When your health changes significantly – for example, if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another serious disease. Knowing that your Living Will might actually be needed is reason enough to review it to make sure it reflects your current wishes.
- When you reach retirement age – often, our views on things change as we age. Once you reach retirement age your views on medical treatments may also change.
- If your wishes change – all type of things can spark a dramatic change in your wishes, from a spiritual awakening to the death of a loved one. If you suddenly feel differently about the issues addressed in your Living Will it is best to make the necessary changes immediately.
Contact a Westport Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about updating your Living Will, contact an experienced Westport estate planning attorney at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C.by calling (860) 548-1000 to schedule an appointment.