Estate Planning involves a combination of various legal instruments, such as Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills, as well as Lifetime Transfers, Gifts, and Beneficiary Designations.
Advance healthcare directives, otherwise known as "living wills" are intended to address the effects that science, sophisticated medical treatments and technology have on human life, morality, and spirituality. A living will allows you to set forth a series of written instructions that outline your desires regarding the use of healthcare treatment so that your moral and spiritual beliefs are honored after you are no longer able to make or communicate your own decisions. While considering the time and situation in which a living will may be necessary is never pleasant, it is a proactive measure you can take to ensure you are treated with a respect for your wishes.
A living will can be very general or very specific in character and it will echo both your unique circumstances and your unique beliefs. Each living will is distinct and should reflect your own personal, thought-out positions on protracted grief and pain for yourself and your family members, as well as the substantial financial and emotional burdens prolonged treatment can cause. A living will typically addresses the following areas:
1. Agent - The election and authorization of an agent to make decisions on your behalf. This is usually a family member or close friend. You should try to select someone that understands your beliefs and wishes and who will be available should a need to act arise.
2. Organ Donation – A living will is one a series of opportunities you have to express your wishes regarding organ donation. The advance healthcare directive can cover not only if you want to be an organ donator, but whether the viability of organs for donation should be considered in your medical decisions.
3. A series of instructions regarding life-sustaining treatment in a variety of situations where you are no longer able to make decisions. These situations include:
Invasive Diagnostic Testing
Mechanical Respiration Antibiotics
It is important to note that a living will does not apply in cases during a woman’s pregnancy where the medical treatment is being used to sustain the life of the fetus.
Pennsylvania law specifies a series of requirements that must be met for a living will to be valid. These requirements are in place in order to protect you and ensure that what purport to be your living will is actually your desires and wishes. The requirements are generally similar to the requirements necessary to make a Will in Pennsylvania, and are as follows:
1. You must be over the age of 18, with a few exceptions in case of marriage or graduation from high school.
2. You must be of sound mind. Often it is useful to have documentation of your sound mental status by having a mental health check-up before you create the living will.
3. You must sign and date your living will on or after the date it is created.
4. Your signature must be witnessed by two individuals.
After your living will is created, you should contact your physician or healthcare provider and include a copy of it in your file. The Advance Healthcare Directive will only go into effect upon you becoming terminally ill, incapacitated, or unable to communicate your medical wishes.
Michael J. Girardi
Estate Administration is a process that involves a wide range of duties on behalf of the Executor or Administrator. These responsibilities include collecting, valuing, and protecting the estate’s assets, making payments to creditors and receiving collections from debtors, the payment of various taxes, and the distribution of the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate.
To learn more about Estate Administration, check out the resources below, or contact us to schedule a free consultation.