When you think of your estate planning documents, many times you think
of them as documents that won’t be shared with your family until
after you have died. This is because many people think of estate planning
documents as just another word for their will. However, estate planning
documents include more than just your will. They also include documents
that speak for you while you are alive such as your designation of healthcare
surrogate and your living will.
Your designation of healthcare surrogate states who you would like to make
medical decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself due to an accident
or an illness. Your living will states what kind of care you would or
would not like to receive in an end of life situation. These are two estate
planning documents that should be shared with your family and anyone else
who will be making decisions on your behalf now, while you are alive and
well, so that they will know your thoughts, wishes and preferences regarding
medical care when the time comes to speak on your behalf.
It is important to share the philosophy behind the documents while you
are alive and well because when your representatives have to step in and
speak on your behalf, they will be doing so during times of great emotional
stress. That stress can be increased if they have to make decisions without
being sure of what you would have wanted and can be lessened if they know
they are following your wishes. Sometimes, the only comfort your family
can find in these difficult and emotional situations is in knowing that
they are making the decision you would have made yourself.
So, take a moment and share these particular estate planning documents
now, before they are needed. Your family may feel a little uncomfortable
talking about it, but will be thanking you later if there ever comes a
day when they have to step into your shoes and make these potentially
life changing decisions on your behalf.