If you are waiting until you have an asset such as a home or retirement account, or until you and your spouse have had children, you may be overlooking an important estate planning matter: a health care living will. According to the Minnesota Statutes, this legal document is not drawn up to benefit your heirs, but for your own well-being.
Suppose you are in a car accident and suffer a traumatic brain injury. You have never told your spouse or doctor whether you want life-sustaining procedures or treatments, and now you cannot, so they must make these decisions based on what they believe you may want. If you have a living will, though, they can simply refer to the document to find out what your wishes are.
A situation may arise that you did not anticipate when you were identifying what care you want while incapacitated. In your health care living will, though, you have named a proxy. This person is now authorized to look at your medical records, consult with the doctor and make informed decisions about what happens next. Naturally, you would choose someone you trust, but even so, you can limit the authority and scope of the duties of your proxy.
In the event of a divorce, death or some other change in relationship, you may need to change the person you have named as your proxy. Your wishes as to what care you should receive while incapacitated may change, too. It is a good idea to review your living will every two or three years, as well as any time you go through a life change, to make sure everything reflects your most current wishes.
This information about health care living wills may help you understand what the document entails, but it is general in nature and should not be interpreted as legal advice.