There are a number of different components to the modern estate plan beyond that of asset transfer. One of these components involves preparing for medical contingencies. If you were to fall into an unresponsive state due to an accident or illness deemed irreversible, would you want to be kept alive by artificial life support systems? This is a question that people must address. The way that this is accomplished is with the execution of an advance health care directive.
A highly publicized Florida case playing itself out in public addressed the reason why people of all ages should have advance directives in place. A young woman named Terri Schiavo fell into a non-responsive state after suffering full cardiac arrest at the age of 26. After approximately 8 years, her husband wanted the feeding tubes keeping her alive removed. He felt that his wife would have wanted the tubes removed if she could have communicated her wishes.
Her parents disagree with Mr. Shiavo’s point of view. As a result, a bitter legal battle ensued. This acrimonious standoff between her loved ones could have been avoided if Terri Schiavo had executed a living will stating her preferences with regard to artificial life support measures.
An advance directive combines a living will and a durable medical power of attorney. A durable medical power of attorney appoints someone empowered to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation. This bolsters your incapacity plan so that you have a decision-maker in place should a medical scenario present itself that is not explicitly covered in a living will document. The living will portion of the advance directive allows you to direct your physician to cease life support procedures if you have a terminal medical condition with no chance of recovery.
Pyke & Associates, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.