Wills and Advance Directives. What Are They and Who Needs Them?

Wills and Advance Directives.  What Are They and Why You Need Them

 

The topic of wills and advance directives is one people don’t like to think about because it involves thinking about the end of life.  However, that is exactly why you should think about it.  Death can come at any time, life is unpredictable.  Planning for the inevitable with advance directives makes what is always an emotional time period for the survivors at least a little less stressful.
Looking at the issue of having a will, one must first ask, who needs a will?  The answer, if you are an adult, you should have a will.  The best person to decide what happens to your estate after you die is you.  Through a will, you can address how your estate is distributed, who it is distributed to, and who will oversee the process of distributing the estate.  If you have minor children, your will should clearly address what will happen to your children should both parents pass at or near the same time. Should this terrible event occur, you will have a clear plan in place to name the guardians of your minor children. This will give you the peace of mind of knowing that they will be cared for by those you have designated as best prepared to support them.
The issue of advance directives is another area that is smart to address at the time of creation of a will.  Advance directives deal with two important and emotional issues.  One, what type of life saving or life extending measures do you want taken should you suffer a traumatic injury or life-threatening illness; and two, should you be mentally or physically unable to make medical decisions for yourself, who will make those decisions for you.  The first issue of how to handle life-sustaining treatment is important to address.  One of the worst things to ever have to do is make medical decisions for a family member who has not expressed any wishes on the issue.  Through a living will you can address the level of care you would want, including resuscitation, use of breathing machines and dialysis.  The advance directives can also indicate whether or not you wish to be a tissue or organ donor at the time of your passing.
The advance directive allows you to appoint a person, many times a close relative, to serve as your designee to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated.  This document can be very beneficial in avoiding a family dispute as to how to handle your medical care should you find yourself in this situation.
When it comes to end of life planning, while it isn’t the most pleasant topic to consider, it is one of the most important ones to consider.  Planning for these difficult situations will make the pain and agony of dealing with them much easier on your family.
As part of their Family Law practice, Banks & Brower helps clients with end of life planning, including wills and advance directives.