What Happens If I Die Without a Will?
Dying without a will means you are what the courts consider “intestate,” which means laws of your state determine how your property is distributed. In most cases, your assets would go to your spouse,...
Why is it that so many of us leave this world without ever having written a living will?
That’s actually a fairly easy question to answer: Very few of us like to think about our own death, much less acknowledge its inevitability. The thought that we’re going to die someday is not a particularly pleasant one.
Nevertheless, passing away without having written a living will can create a bevy of problems for you, your family and other loved ones.
For starters, it’s important to understand that a living will is not the same thing as a last will and testament. A last will and testament is a document that explains exactly how your money and property—your assets, in other words—should be distributed after your death.
A living will is a document that explains in detailed language how various decisions should be made regarding your medical care when you’re coming close to the end of your life.
Put simply, the purpose of a living will is to make it perfectly clear whether or not you’d like to be put on life support if your death is inevitable. As a Pennsylvania resident with a living will, when a doctor overseeing your care makes the decision that you are close to death—or if you’ve slipped into a permanent coma—the wishes spelled out in your living will take effect.
When putting together the specifics of your living will, you’ll want to consider options other than a respirator and feeding tubes. Other possibilities that can prolong your life may include treatments as seemingly simple as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or various sorts of medications, as well as more complicated treatments like blood transfusions, kidney dialysis, or even surgery.
It’s understandable that for Pennsylvania residents who are still relatively young and in good health, the idea of having an official living will drawn up seems unnecessary. But the world we live in today is nothing if not unpredictable.
As we’ve seen time and time again—on the news, for instance—an automobile accident or some other completely unforeseen misfortune can occur anytime, to anyone, nearly anywhere. And without a living will, a horrible situation can quickly get even worse.
Should you slip into a coma, or find yourself in a situation where you’re otherwise unable to communicate, a living will allows the medical team in charge of your care to know whether or not you want your life to be prolonged to the lengthiest degree possible, or if you’d like to simply die naturally.
A Pennsylvania resident with a living will in place has effectively passed on their end-of-life decisions to the medical team in charge of their care. A Pennsylvania resident without a living will, meanwhile, will very often find their family members attempting to make those end-of-life decisions for them, especially in situations where the patient’s communication isn’t a possibility.
For obvious reasons, the latter scenario—an end-of-life patient without a living will—can result in awful arguments between family members. We’ve seen arguments of this sort tear family members apart and ruin otherwise loving relationships for good. It’s a sad and unfortunate situation, especially considering the fact that it could all have been avoided if the patient in question had simply prepared a living will.
We’ve all heard of patients who’ve spent years or even decades being kept alive on feeding tubes while in a coma. Although this is difficult to consider, most of us probably don’t want to be kept in a vegetative state if the chance of recovery is slim. What’s more, such a situation is nothing if not incredibly expensive for your family members.
Is that the sort of situation that you would strongly prefer to avoid? If so, a living will can make sure it doesn’t happen. On the other hand, a living will can make sure you are kept alive for as long as possible—or even for a specified amount of time—should you fall into a vegetative state.
And while that’s a good example of a scenario you’d certainly want to discuss with your family members, or anyone else who might be involved should you encounter an end-of-life situation, the fact of the matter is that an official living will is a document that declares your wishes, and no one else’s.
The legal team at Penglase & Benson have been helping Pennsylvania residents prepare living wills for decades. We know exactly the sort of language that needs to be included in a living will document for a Pennsylvania resident. And should you wish, we can even help you prepare a living will and testament as well.
To schedule your initial consultation with our six Doylestown, Pennsylvania lawyers, who have a combined 65 years of experience, call our firm at 215-348-4416. You can also reach us by completing our online contact form.
We look forward to working with you, and making an otherwise stressful and uncomfortable experience a process that will give you the sort of peace of mind you’ll carry with you for years.