When most people think of estate planning they think of making plans to distribute their assets after death. Estate planning, however, should also encompass aspects of your life before your death. Like many people, you may have very strong opinions about medical treatment, particularly as it pertains to end of life treatment decisions. After all, we all make thousands of seemingly unimportant decisions on a daily basis so it only seems fair to be able to make important life and death decisions regarding your medical care and treatment right? What happens though if you are incapacitated and unable to tell healthcare providers what your wishes are regarding treatment? The desire to make these decisions ahead of time is precisely why people choose to execute advanced directives such as living wills.
What Are Advanced Directives?
An advanced directive is a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor. The availability of advanced directives, as well as which ones are recognized and the language required to create one, is governed by state law. For this reason, advanced directives can vary greatly both in form and substance from one state to another. If you live in the State of New York, therefore, you need to make sure that the advanced directive you create, including a living will, complies with New York law in terms of the language used and the decisions made.
Living Wills in the State of New York
In the State of New York, you have the ability to create and execute two different types of advanced directives – a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will. A Health Care Proxy lets you name someone, your agent, to make decisions about your health care, including decisions about life-sustaining treatment, if you can no longer speak for yourself. A Living Will lets you state your wishes about health care in the event that you can no longer speak for yourself. In your Living Will you may also address organ donation, pain relief, funeral, and other advance planning wishes.
Why Are Living Wills Important?
During the course of your lifetime you make millions of decisions, some small and seemingly unimportant while others are life changing. Regardless of the importance of those decisions, the point is that we are all accustomed to make decisions that directly impact our lives. Why, therefore, wouldn’t you want to make decisions about your own end of life medical treatment? Like many people, you may have very strong opinions about life-sustaining treatment; however, unless you take the time to create a Living Will your opinions and wishes with regard to that type of treatment may never be honored if you are one day in a position to need that type of treatment. Moreover, if you fail to execute a Health Care Proxy, your loved ones could end up in a protracted, and costly, court battle over the right to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself someday. Sadly, when family members find themselves on opposing sides of a court battle it can create a rift that never fully heals. By executing a Health Care Proxy, along with a Living Will, you are able to decide ahead of time who you want to make healthcare decisions for you and even make some of those decisions yourself in advance. Not only does this ensure that the person you trust most will be making life and death decisions for you and that your end of life wishes will be honored, but you can also spare your loved ones from having to go through the emotional roller coaster of a court battle over the right to make decisions for you. In the end, Living Wills protect both the people who create them and the people who love them.
Please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about Living Wills in the State of New York, contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.
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