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Should a living will be part of your estate plan?

| Sep 10, 2014 | Estate Planning

Every day in New Jersey and across the country, people are involved in serious accidents or contract serious illnesses. Some of those people are unable to make healthcare decisions for themselves during these times — at least temporarily. This is when family members can turn to the incapacitated individual’s estate plan for his or her living will in order to ensure that family members and physicians are aware of that person’s wishes. Without a living will, family members are often left to make decisions that person may not have wanted. Further, they may have to go to court in order to be granted the right to make decisions on that person’s behalf, and that could waste valuable time during which decisions need to be made.

A living will allows you to decide what life-saving treatments you want and which ones you do not. This includes any artificial means of life support, nutrition supplements or other procedures that would prolong life. You may also indicate whether you do not want a particular physician handling your case. If a doctor refuses to abide by your living will, he or she is bound by New Jersey law to relinquish your care to another physician.

You can revoke your living will if you are able when you are brought in for treatment. Audio or video supplements are also allowed under our state law. Further, if your spouse was your agent-in-fact and you get a divorce, your ex-spouse’s appointment is revoked. Therefore, it is important to either appoint an alternate in the document or draft a new living will after a divorce.

Further, a living will needs to be properly executed in order to be effective. As with other documents in your estate plan, it must be signed under oath, dated and witnessed. It is only effective if you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself. Considering the crucial implications of such a document, it may be beneficial to discuss all of your options with someone familiar with these documents.

Source: FindLaw, “New Jersey Living Wills Laws“, , Sept. 8, 2014

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