The Importance of a Living Will in New York

If you are incapacitated and your living will does not contain specific instructions for the situation at hand, someone may be able to make treatment decisions for you. Often, a living will is accompanied by a healthcare proxy or power of attorney. “Living will” and “advance directive” are often used synonymously, but a living will legally only applies after a terminal diagnosis, whereas an advance directive is much more comprehensive and includes the health care proxy. Write your living will

As of 2017, only around one in three American adults had an advance directive for end-of-life care prepared. Those who are older than 65 are more likely to have an advance directive prepared than those who are younger, as those who have chronic illnesses are more likely than those who are not our Brooklyn estate planning attorney explains.

People may be unwilling to prepare these documents because they fear that they won’t necessarily reflect their wishes at the time they become relevant; sometimes patients become more willing to undergo treatments they rejected when they were younger as they age and develop medical problems.

However, the documents can be changed as long as they are witnessed and potentially notarized (depending on current law). And if you continue to communicate your values with your proxy, they can make decisions based on your most recent preferences.

So why is a living will important? It reduces ambiguity which can prevent family disputes during what is already a difficult time. It may seem like something that can be put off, but life is unpredictable; one never knows when these documents could become relevant. Furthermore, it needn’t be a hassle.

A living will is a straightforward document, however, it’s important to work with legal counsel to make sure your beliefs are properly stated. Other healthcare documents should also be prepared at that time, like a healthcare power of attorney that designates a person to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable.  Once you have signed any documents make sure you keep them updated, especially if you change states, and be diligent in communicating with whomever you named to act on your behalf.

If you need a living will, asset protection, a healthcare proxy, or already have one that you would like reviewed, please contact us at our Brooklyn office.

Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection
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