For most people, preparing a living will and durable power of attorney are on the list of “Things to Do” but too often, people procrastinate on scheduling a meeting with an estate planning lawyer, fearing that the cost to prepare these documents will be too expensive or thinking that they have plenty of time to get around to dealing with it.
Believe it or not, the cost of preparing a living will and durable power of attorney can be reasonable (if you pick the right estate lawyer) and can be handled fairly quickly for 92% of people. The 2 most important questions are how do you want to be treated (i.e. your wishes) if you were to become incapacitated, and who among your family and friends do you trust to carry out those wishes if you were to become incapacitated?
Hypothetically, you are rushed to the hospital and need a family member or friend to act on your behalf in dealing with the doctors and your healthcare carrier. Do you have a plan in place and are you confident that the person selected will carry out your wishes?
In New Jersey, the law allows you to prepare documents called Advanced Directives for Healthcare; Proxy Directives; and Instructive Directives (commonly referred to as “Living Wills”) that let the healthcare folk know who is authorized to speak on your behalf if you are unable to do so and what healthcare services can and cannot be provided.
Under the New Jersey Advanced Directives for Health Care Act (N.J.S.A. 26:2H-53 to – 78), you can execute an Advanced Directive for Healthcare or Proxy Directive authorizing a particular person or the attending healthcare professional/institution to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatments under the following circumstances:
- When the life-sustaining treatment is experimental and not a proven therapy;
- When the life-sustaining treatment is likely to be ineffective or futile in prolonging the your life;
- When the life-sustaining treatment is likely to merely prolong the imminent dying process;
- When you are suffering a terminal condition;
- When you have a severe irreversible illness or condition and the likely risks/burdens associated with withholding or withdrawing the particular life-sustaining treatment outweigh the likely benefits to you from receiving or continuing said treatment; or
- When you have a severe irreversible illness or condition and imposing (or continuing to impose) the particular medical intervention on you would be inhumane.
The purpose of an Advanced Directive for Healthcare is to ensure that you control whether you receive life-sustaining or life-prolonging medical treatments after losing the capacity to tell the doctor your true wishes. Sadly, too often when someone is in this setting, they cannot speak on their own behalf and a fight break out among family members who disagree over the current course of treatment to be rendered because you did not provide clear written guidance as to who is authorized to speak on your behalf and what healthcare services you want to be provided / not provided.
If you would like to schedule a free estate planning consultation with Jonathan Diamond to discuss the preparation of your estate planning documents or to review or update your existing estate planning documents, call Angela at 973-379-9292 (Short Hills office) or at 609-248-9595 (Ocean County office) to arrange it.