Hollywood often dramatizes serious estate planning issues that we all need to consider. Recently I watched the movie, The Descendents. This movie touched on several estate planning topics: family trusts, the responsibility of a trustee, the rule against perpetuities and living wills. For me the most powerful and thought provoking scenes in the movie involved the estate planning document called the Living Will. It is the document in which you instruct your family of your life sustaining choices if you become terminally ill, are in a persistent vegetative state or have an end stage condition and are unable to express them for yourself. You may also include whether you want medication for pain, what life sustaining medical procedures you want if you are pregnant and ill, whether or not you want your organs donated and who you wish to handle your funeral arrangements.
I know that these are not pleasant topics and most people don’t want to dwell on them. However taking some time to consider your choices and putting those choices in writing will allow your family to make the decisions that best fit your wishes when you are not able to communicate them for yourself.
So back to the movie. I really appreciated the scene in which the main character, George Clooney, is meeting with his wife’s doctor to discuss his wife’s end of life medical treatment. She was in a boating accident and was determined to be brain dead. In his hand George held his wife’s living will that she had created prior to her accident. The doctor was able to counsel him as to his wife’s end of life choices.
Not only was the husband able to discuss these important issues and choices with the doctor but he was also able to show his wife’s family that these were her wishes and he was following her written direction.
Having your end of life decisions in writing provides peace of mind to your family at a very difficult and emotional time. Your family will know what your wishes are and they will be able to carry them out with the assistance and advice of the medical and legal communities.
When you prepare a living will you may want to discuss the important issues addressed in the document with your religious counselor, doctor and attorney.
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