Although having the end-of-life conversation is something that most of us would like to avoid, it is critical to discuss. It may sound crass but the term “pull the plug” has become synonymous in many ways with living wills and end of life conditions. There are instances where decisions must be made regarding the serious conditions one may find himself or herself in.

If you were in a serious condition how would you want your family to handle it? What do you want to happen to you if you are incapacitated? What if the prognosis was that you would not regain consciousness? Who do you want to make these decisions? Questions like these are important to ask, but it is even more important to discover the answers and implement planning.

If you are incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself, it is very difficult for others to make decisions for you if you do not have estate planning in place that authorizes action and gives an idea of what you want. In California this planning comes in the form of an Advance Healthcare Directive and a Living Will.

A Living Will should not be confused with a regular will or a pour-over will. Those documents concern the transfer of the property in your estate upon your death. A Living Will, on the other hand, is a declaration of your end-of-life wishes should you be in a persistent vegetative state or lack capacity and suffer from a terminal illness.

Legal planning is just one part of the planning process. Communication is also a key part of the planning process. Your family cannot read your mind. You need to talk to them about your choices so they understand what you want.

You need to choose a decision maker who you can communicate with your medical professionals on your health care choices. He or she will make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to and execute your directives in your legal planning.

With this communication and legal planning in place you will have a say in the decisions made for your own body under end of life scenarios. In the worst possible scenario, without planning, your family may have to hire an attorney to go to court and petition to get permission to act for you. This can be a lengthy and expensive process, might invite conflict among family members, and  ultimately could result in authority being granted to someone you would not have chosen.

Answering these questions can be the difference between life and death for you, literally. Having these estate planning documents available can make the end-of-life conversation much easier for your family and friends to cope. Do not leave your family fumbling or stressed over what medical decisions to make for you during an emotionally difficult time; give your loved ones solace in knowing that they are doing what you desire.

No one is promised tomorrow, so if you have not already written these documents or have not reviewed them in a while, do so as soon as possible.

If you have not already written these documents, meet with your attorney as soon as possible. No one is promised tomorrow, which is why we should not procrastinate today.

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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an estate planning attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He is all about family and has a passion for educating his community about trust and estate planning, veterans issues, and how to protect what matters most.

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