Do you remember the Terri Schiavo story? This was a right-to-die legal case that stretched on from 1990 to 2005 involving Theresa Marie Schiavo, a 34 year old woman in an irreversible persistent vegetative state Her husband and legal guardian argued that she would not have wanted prolonged artificial life support and wanted to remove her feeding tube. Her parents disputed her husband’s assertions, challenged her diagnosis, and wanted continued artificial life support. It ended up in court and on front pages everywhere causing a seven-year delay before Schiavo’s feeding tube was ultimately removed.

If Terri had had a living will, her wishes would have been clearly stated, therefore avoiding the drawn-out court battle and overwhelming medical bills. It would have allowed her family to grieve as a family instead of butting heads over what they thought she may have wanted.

It’s estimated that fewer than 1 in 3 Americans have a living will or advance health care directive.

Here are some important considerations:

Living wills are typically executed as part of an estate plan. If you only want a living will, there will most likely be a nominal fee to prepare the document. However, you may want to consider all four vital estate planning documents; a living will, a health care proxy, a power of attorney and a will, plus any trusts you wish to set up.

Here are some other important topics to address in a living will:

  • Extra instructions noting, for example, that you want life-sustaining treatment for a full week, just in case a medical miracle occurs, but no longer.
  • Pain management options
  • Prolonged life support
  • Resuscitation and DNR orders
  • Organ donation 

Where to store your living will:

A copy should be given to your physician as part of your medical records as well as the person you’ve assigned to make your health care decisions. Also, you’ll want to keep the original at home in a fireproof safe.

A Living Will gives invaluable guidance to family members and health care professionals when you’re unable to express them yourself.

Contact Estate Planning Attorney AmySue Taylor to begin the process of creating your living will today. Tomorrow may be too late.