As we start the year and take stock of what we would like to accomplish in the coming months, those items that we have neglected to start, or to finish, over the last year, seem to rise to the top of our lists. Is finalizing a Will or Living Will on your list?
Many people are reluctant to draft a Will because, let’s face it, the reason for a will is not something most of us like to contemplate when we could plan our next vacation instead. However, if you do not have the time or the inclination to have a will drafted at this point in your life, at the very least, consider putting a Living Will at the top of your to-do list this year.
A Living Will is in simple terms, a legal document that expresses a person’s wishes regarding the actions that they want to be taken (or not taken) to prolong their life should such a decision become necessary. In a Living Will, a person is designated who has the authority to carry out the wishes expressed in the Living Will. As we witnessed with the Terri Schiavo case here in Florida, without a Living Will, one’s wishes can become the basis for prolonged court battles, family estrangement and in that case, even legislative action. For anyone who missed hearing about Terri Schiavo, Terri suffered brain damage in 1990 when she collapsed from heart failure. She was left in a “vegetative state”, meaning she had no significant brain function and could not feed herself. Terri’s husband believed his wife wishes were to not be kept alive by a feeding tube, but her parents did not agree and a lengthy and bitter court battle resulted. A court finally ruled that the feeding tube could be removed, but the Florida state legislature intervened and passed a law allowing the Governor to intervene. The Governor ordered that Terri’s feeding tube be reinserted. This may be an extreme example of what can happen when someone has not made it clear how they wish to live or die, but none of it would have been necessary if a Living Will had been executed by Terri Schiavo.
A Living Will is not expensive to have drafted, it does not take much time to do, but no matter what your religious or personal beliefs may be with regard to the measures to be conducted on your behalf, with a Living Will, the decision remains yours.