Life is unpredictable, and while it’s natural to focus on the present, it’s imperative to consider the future as well. A part that often goes overlooked is planning for the possibility of mental incapacity, which is a condition in which an individual cannot make decisions or understand and appreciate the consequences of their actions due to a mental or cognitive impairment. Also called mental incompetence, it involves an impairment in cognitive abilities, such as reasoning, judgment, memory, comprehension, and communication skills.
None of us can predict when or if such a situation will arise, but not preparing for it can lead to many challenges and potential downfalls. This is where a “living will” becomes invaluable, serving as a guiding light during challenging times for the family members involved.
When mental incapacity strikes unexpectedly, individuals lose their ability to decide on their own health and well-being. Without a living will, others, such as family members or medical professionals, may decide on your behalf, which may not align with your personal values, beliefs, or preferences. By having a living will, you keep some measure of control, even when you cannot voice your wishes.
Without clear instructions provided in a living will, loved ones and medical professionals may face difficult decisions regarding your medical treatment. They may be compelled to choose interventions or treatments you would not have wanted, causing unnecessary stress and potentially prolonging suffering. A living will ensures that your wishes are respected, reducing the burden on your loved ones during an already challenging time.
Unfortunately, when there is no living will in place, the responsibility of making critical decisions falls on family members who may hold differing opinions. Disagreements among family members can intensify during emotionally charged situations, leading to rifts and strained relationships. Having a living will eliminates ambiguity and provides clarity on your wishes, reducing the likelihood of conflicts and allowing your family to focus on supporting each other.
Mental incapacity can also significantly affect your financial affairs. Without proper planning, bills may go unpaid, assets may remain unmanaged, and financial decisions may be made without considering your best interests. By establishing a durable power of attorney alongside a living will, you can appoint a trusted individual to oversee your financial matters, ensuring your financial stability and protecting your assets.
Families often face immense emotional and psychological stress when confronted with the mental incapacity of a loved one. The uncertainty of decision-making and guilt associated with potentially making choices against your wishes can take a heavy toll. By proactively creating a living will, you relieve your loved ones of the burden of decision-making and provide them with a clear roadmap, promoting peace of mind and emotional well-being during challenging times.
While contemplating mental incapacity and end-of-life decisions may be uncomfortable, it is a responsible and compassionate act to plan for these possibilities. Failing to prepare for mental incapacity with a living will can lead to a loss of autonomy, unwanted medical interventions, family disputes, financial consequences, and emotional stress.
By taking the time to create a thorough living will with the team at Horn & Johnson, you make sure your wishes are respected, reducing the burden on your loved ones, and providing invaluable guidance in difficult times. Remember, preparing for the future is an act of love and consideration for both you and those who care about you.