Wills are part of the estate planning
process, an area of law that is sometimes underused or is not completed before emergency strikes. Generally, wills come into effect after a person passes. They outline how an individual’s estate and assets will be divided, who will carry out their last wishes, and who will take on the responsibility of caring for their minor children. Living wills are also meant to plan for emergencies, but they work in a different time frame and serve a different purpose.
Why Create a Living Will?
Living wills are created to address what should happen in the case of a terminal illness or life-threatening injury. This type of will comes into effect when someone cannot make medical decisions for themselves, has a terminal condition, or is in a vegetative state. In other words, a living will is effective during a person’s lifetime, not afterward. Because such traumatic events are unpredictable, many individuals will formulate a living will which allows them to make decisions about the medical treatments they do or do not want to receive, and they can make these choices when they are still mentally and physically capable of doing so. These legal choices and directions are also known as advance medical directives, and they tell physicians and family members what to do in emergency situations.
What Can a Living Will Decide?
Living wills outline what type or level of care a person would like in the instance of medical emergencies. These options typically include:
- Use all treatments available to try and save their life;
- Try all treatments, but stop them if they do not work within a certain time period;
- Only utilize treatments that do not cause discomfort or pain; or
- Only provide care to help ease the pain, but no treatments that are intended to save or prolong the person’s life.
While almost every type of treatment can be addressed in a living will, there are a few specific treatments that are included in most living wills because they greatly impact a person’s quality of life. Individuals often decide whether or not they would like to allow tube feeding, life support, and/or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Those who do not wish CPR to be used can also sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order and add this to their living will. This will ensure that no artificial means of resuscitation will be used, even if it would be necessary to live. A power of attorney is another legal document that can be tied to a living will. This grants a person the permission to carry out the legal decisions that they have outlined when they are unable to make these decisions for themselves.
Contact an Arlington Heights Attorney
Creating a living will should not be left for times when you are facing health difficulties. Instead, it should be done while you are physically and emotionally capable of doing so. Estate planning may seem like an area of law that should be left for the future, but medical emergencies can never be predicted. At Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, our lawyers have experience with all areas of estate planning, and we can help you keep your present and future best interests a priority. If you are considering creating a living will, contact our Palatine, IL estate planning attorneys
at 847-934-6000 to schedule a free consultation.
About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.