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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyThe Illinois Living Will Act states that every citizen has the basic right to control decisions about his or her health care. Unfortunately, however, there may come a point in a person’s life where he or she is not able to make such decisions on the spot. Advance medical directives, including living wills, can be used to document a person’s wishes regarding certain types of medical care in certain situations, removing the burden of making such decisions from family members and loved ones.

Those who advocate for living wills say that such instruments are crucial in protecting a patient’s rights. Living wills, in particular, address which types of death-delaying procedures the patient wishes to receive—or not receive—if he or she is ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and is unable to communicate his or her wishes at the time. A terminal condition is one that is incurable and will ultimately result in the patient’s death. Death delaying procedures are defined as treatments that will only serve to postpone the moment of death and commonly include:

  • Assisted ventilation and the application of artificial respirators;
  • Intravenous medication and nutrition;
  • Whole blood transfusions; and
  • Artificial kidney treatments, including dialysis.

A living will cannot direct medical personnel to withhold food or water to allow death to occur from starvation or dehydration.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyWhen it comes to making decisions regarding the end of your life, there are many factors to consider. No matter how difficult it may be for you to think about, leaving such decisions to your loved ones to make can leave lasting feelings of guilt, regret, and wondering if they made the right choice. Fortunately, there are several ways you can prepare in advance regarding your desired end-of-life care. They represent an important but often overlooked element of the estate planning process.

Advance Medical Directives

There are two common ways in which you can make your end-of-life care decisions ahead of time, and both are considered types of advance medical directive. An advance medical directive, put simply, is contingency plan that specifies your wishes to be carried out if you are no longer able to make such decisions for yourself. Living wills and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders allow you to maintain control of your own life to the very end.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people think about estate planning, they think of wills, inheritances, and other ways to pass down a person’s property and assets to their heirs. Such an image is not necessarily wrong, but it certainly does not tell the whole the story. There are a number of reasons for estate planning that have very little to do with money and possessions, which makes the process important for every family, regardless of wealth or net worth.

1. Control Over Privacy

Without proper planning, your estate will be required to go through the process of probate, which is often long, cumbersome, and unpredictable. Probate is also a matter of public record, meaning your family’s affairs are made available to the general public. By taking steps in advance, you can limit the impact of the probate process and possibly avoid it altogether. In doing so, you can keep your personal details within your chosen circle.

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Lombard family law attorneyAlso referred to in the state of Illinois as a POLST—practitioner orders for life-sustaining treatment—a do-not-resuscitate order can give you and your loved ones great peace of mind knowing your health wishes are officially documented should you be unable to make decisions about your own health matters. In the event of severe injury or illness, a DNR becomes a valuable advance directive document, so you may decide to include one when making your other estate planning arrangements.

How a DNR Is Different

Generally, federal law requires that every person admitted to a health care facility is informed of their to right to make an advance directive. The Patient Self-Determination Act requires not all, but many, providers to present information on advance directives to patients under their care. Unlike other advance directives, such as a power of attorney or living will, a do-not-resuscitate order exists to specifically address the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should your heart or breathing stop. Additionally, its purpose is to express your desires regarding any life-sustaining treatment.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyIt is never easy for one to think about the end of their life, and preparing a living will can feel unsettling as it stirs up a mixture of emotions. Despite the unpleasant nature of the subject, a living will can actually be a very useful and powerful tool when it comes to protecting your best interests, in turn offering a sense of peace of mind. Knowing you have addressed your wishes, boundaries, and directives regarding your health, property, and finances can give you a sense of accomplishment and make things easier for your loved ones.

How Does a Living Will Benefit Me?

In the state of Illinois, there are two kinds of power of attorney: one that covers health care and personal issues, and one that covers the management of property. Similar to these documents, a living will is an advance directive that also serves a specific purpose. It exists to allow a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness to express their desire to have death-delaying procedures withheld or withdrawn in the event they cannot speak for themselves.

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