- posted: Nov. 30, 2022
- Estate Planning
Every adult resident of Kentucky should have a living will and designation of health care surrogate. This is a legal document designed to protect you if you become incapacitated and/or cannot communicate with your doctors about important health care decisions. Without this document, some stranger might be making those decisions on your behalf. The document also impacts your estate planning, since it can include important conditions on the type and degree of life-sustaining treatment you wish to receive.
Unlike “end of life” documents such as wills and trusts, which mandate how a person’s assets will be distributed after death, a living will and surrogate designation has effect while you’re alive. It serves two functions:
- It provides advance directives about your health care in certain situations. For example, in the event that the physicians determine you are incapacitated and terminally ill, you may forego any further medical treatment and require that nutrition and/or hydration be withheld.
- It allows you to appoint a health care surrogate. This is a person you choose to make health care decisions on your behalf. The surrogate must honor all of your advance directives but can direct the providers about all other health-related matters.
The advance directives and surrogate appointment take effect only if you are incapacitated or otherwise incapable of communication.
The requirements for executing a living will and surrogate designation are provided by state statute. Like a last will and testament, a person executing a living will must be of sound mind at the time. The document must also be notarized and witnessed in accordance with Kentucky law. The signer may revoke the document at any time with or without cause. People may revoke and rewrite their living will and surrogate designation for various reasons. Sometimes their attitude towards potential care and treatment changes over time. In other cases, the chosen surrogate has died, moved away or is no longer the best candidate for serving as the surrogate.
Estate planning is not usually a priority for the young and healthy. However, life is unpredictable. A sudden illness or accident can leave anyone incapable of making decisions and/or communicating with their doctors. Every adult should have a thoughtfully drafted living will and surrogate designation in place in case the unexpected happens. It is also important to periodically review the estate plan to be sure that the person’s current wishes are reflected in the documents.
Hemmer DeFrank Wessels, PLLC in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky provides comprehensive estate planning services. We will endeavor to make sure that all of your wishes about health care decisions and property distribution are clearly documented and legally enforceable. Feel free to contact us online or call 859-344-1188 for an initial consultation.