A Living Will and Healthcare Power are the most important estate planning documents that you can make. This is for the simple fact that they affect you and have huge ramifications for you while you are still alive. The question that matters most is when is it the best time to make sure that these documents are in place.
The simple answer is that the best time to make a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney is before you need them. After you need them it is too late to go back and make them or change the fact that you did not make preparations. Healthcare documents are meant to be in place to make sure your wishes for medical treatment or lack of medical treatment are honored when you can no longer speak for yourself. You are considered to be no longer able to speak for yourself when you become incapacitated through disability such as a coma or stroke. Advance directives also take the stress and potential difficult decisions out of the hands of family members that may be grieving or unable to think rationally. Leaving a family member with a difficult choice of whether to keep you alive or pull the plug is never something that you should do. It is better to take this decision out of a family member's hands and make sure that your healthcare wishes are clearly stated in writing.
The best way to do this is to plan ahead and make sure your documents are in place before you need them.
This will be before you are in a hospital or nursing home and when you have a clear head and enough time to make an informed decision. If you are already in a hospital or nursing home you might be under stress or pressure to make a decision. If you are already admitted in a hospital or nursing home then you may still make a Healthcare Power of Attorney without additional steps, but to complete a Living Will in some states you will need someone from the state Ombudsman's office present. This additional step may take more time and interfere with your wishes. While nobody wants to think about the possibility of their own mortality or possible incapacity, it is a reality that adults that have people that care for them and depend on them must face. Having advance directives in place can take worry from your mind now and prevent worry and stress from loved ones later on.
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