Living wills, powers of attorney, and you

For many people, especially young adults, the thought of getting a will is a foreign concept.  Many people assume they don’t need one unless they are rich, have kids, etc.  I will leave the subject of a will for another post, but I want to make the case that everyone, including young adults, need to have a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care.

A what what with a what what?  A living will (which confusingly has nothing to do with a “will”) is simply a document in which you outline what medical treatment you would or would not like to have in the event you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.  Primarily this involves giving your doctor and loved ones guidance on how you would like to be treated if you end up in a persistent vegetative state, or it is clear that you have an incurable, irreversible condition that will lead to your death.

Gee, that’s cheery.  The thing is, if you don’t have a living will and you end up in such a condition, your loved ones and doctors are left to fight it out, often through lengthy court cases, to figure out what to do with you.  And as much as people like to pretend it can’t happen to them, the truth is of course that any one of us could find ourselves in such a condition at virtually any time.  So live life to the fullest, and write a living will so that, in the event something horrible were to happen, your family would know what you want done.

A durable power of attorney for health care is a document that grants authority to another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to act for yourself.  You can include lots of details in this document to guide that person if you wish, or you can essentially leave it up to his or her judgment. So the living will controls some specific situations, and the durable POA designates someone to make decisions for more general matters.  You really need both regardless of your age, financial position, marital status, parental status, or any other factor.  Everyone needs these documents.

The good news is they are extremely easy to create.  Many lawyers will create them for you for free or for a nominal fee.  You can also get decent forms online or just copy the language created by the Idaho legislature, which can be found here: http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title39/T39CH45SECT39-4510.htm.  I still recommend that you run it by an attorney, just to make sure there aren’t any unforeseen issues.

Hopefully you won’t need to make use of your living will or durable POA for a long time, but knowing you have them in place will provide comfort to you and your loved ones.

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