Most people who are over 30 likely remember the name Terri Schiavo. This is probably especially true of those of you in Florida. The Schiavo case captured the attention of the nation, and its politicians, and remains controversial today. No matter what you think of the controversy, there is a lesson to be taken from that case, where a husband and parents found themselves in court litigating, in front of the entire nation, whether Terri should or should not be taken off life support.
That lesson is this: you never know when something could happen to you, incapacitating you, and rendering you unable to make the simplest of decisions. Whether it is an accident, or a disease, or a stroke, you are only a few minutes of oxygen deprivation away from incapacity. The question is, are you and your family ready for such an outcome? Do you have the proper documentation to avoid a protracted, emotionally painful and potentially public battle between your loved ones? If not, you may want to do so as soon as possible.
While you may think estate planning is for older people with money, it also includes documents such as a living will and a healthcare proxy. These are legal documents that, when executed properly, will set out your wishes for any end of life or incapacity events that may befall you. The living will is where you will set out your wishes with regard to certain interventions to save your life, and what technologies you are comfortable with being used to keep you alive in the event of complete incapacity. This document usually applies if medical professionals agree there is little or no chance that your condition will improve. Then, there is the healthcare proxy, which designates a person to make medical decisions for you if you cannot.
Make sure whoever you designate as a healthcare proxy is someone you trust, and that he or she knows exactly what your wishes are. Also, ensure that your family knows where your documents are located and that they are easily accessible in case they need to get them during a high stress time. Lastly, if you want to learn more about incapacity planning or estate planning in general, visit out estate planning webpage.