The average estate plan incorporates a wide range of inter-related tools which can sometimes be confusing to the beginner. For example, you likely know that a Will is a common estate planning document used to distribute estate assets; however, do you know what a Living Will is? Although they sound very similar, they are used for very different purposes within your estate plan. Because it is important to learn as much as possible before you start on your own estate plan, the Rochester estate planning attorneys at the Law Office of Michael Robinson, P.C. explain what a Living Will is and why you might want to include one in your estate plan.
Making Your Own Decisions
You have probably never really thought about it, but over the course of just a single day, you likely make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions. Many decisions are seemingly inconsequential and not even worth remembering; however, you undoubtedly also make decisions that impact your life on a daily basis. Either way, you probably take the ability to make those decisions for yourself for granted – most of us do. What would happen, however, if you were unable to make decisions for yourself one day because you became ill or suffered an injury that left you incapacitated? The thought likely doesn’t sit well with you. The good news is that you have the option to make some important health care related decisions ahead of time and appoint someone you trust to make other health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself one day. The way to do both is by executing the appropriate advance directive.
An advanced directive is a legal document that allows you to make health care related decisions now in the event you cannot make them for yourself at a later date. Each state decides what type of advanced directives will be recognized and what language must be included and/or procedures followed during execution for an advanced directive to be honored when the time comes. The State of New York recognizes two types of advance directive — a Living Will and a Health Care Proxy.
New York Living Will
A Living Will is a legal document that allows you to make important health care decisions, particularly relating to end of life care, ahead of time in the event you are unable to make them for yourself at a later time. Your Living Will takes effect when you are unable to make your own decisions, and your doctor confirms that you have an incurable condition. In your Living Will you can decide things such as whether you wish to accept or decline:
- Life-sustaining medical treatment or procedures
- Life-prolonging medical treatment or procedures
- Artificial nutrients or hydration
- Maximum pain relief, even if it hastens your death
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to restore stopped breathing and/or heartbeat
New York Health Care Proxy
Along with a Living Will, you may decide to execute a Health Care Proxy which allows you to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. Under the laws of the State of New York, your Agent’s authority to make those decisions begins when your doctor determines that you have lost the capacity to make decisions for yourself. For a decision to withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment, a second doctor must confirm your doctor’s decision. In your Health Care Proxy you can give your Agent as much, or as little, decision-making authority as you wish by specifying which decisions your Agent can make or by giving your Agent unfettered authority to make all decisions that need to be made. Decisions you made in your Living Will are not affected by the execution of a Health Care Proxy. Your Agent can only make decisions that are not covered by your Living Will.
Contact Rochester Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about a New York Living Will, or you wish to get started on your Living Will, contact the Rochester estate planning attorneys at the Law Office of Michael Robinson, P.C. by calling (585) 546-1734 to schedule an appointment.