Wisconsin law permits Wisconsinites to create a “Declaration to Physicians,” often commonly known as a “living will,” to provide instructions regarding medical care in certain circumstances. A living will can be an essential part of a complete estate plan, providing essential instructions if you are in an end-of-life or persistent vegetative state situation.
A decade ago, much of the country watched the brewing controversy in Florida regarding the medical care of Terri Schiavo. Schiavo was was 26 when, in 1990, she suffered a massive heart attack that deprived her of oxygen and led to massive brain deterioration. For the next 15 years, her husband and parents fought multiple legal battles regarding whether Schavo would have wanted to live in a persistent vegetative state. Before Schaivo, the families of Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Cruzan fought long and expensive court battles to receive the right order an end to medical care.
Your Wisconsin living will can help your family know your wishes, and avoid a similarly painful, protracted and expensive legal proceeding, in the event you become terminally ill or suffer a medical trauma placing you in a persistent vegetative state. In order for the instructions you place in your living will to become effective, at least two doctors must agree that, either (1) you are terminally ill and death is imminent, or (2) you are in a persistent vegetative state.
You may be able to incorporate all of the decisions governed by a living will into your health care power of attorney. In your health care power of attorney, you name an agent to make many of your health care decisions for you. These powers can be very broad, and can allow your agent to make decision regarding maintaining feeding tubes or pursuing life-extending medical care.
Although you can place all of these decisions under the authority of your power of attorney, you may not want to. In some cases, it is advisable to maintain a separate living will in addition to your power of attorney. If you have a loved one or other person whom you trust implicitly to make your most important health care decisions, and make them in accordance with your preferences, then you may choose to forego creating a living will. However, if you do not have such a person, or people, in your life, or if you fear your most trusted loved ones might be unable or unwilling to follow your directions in such an emotional situation, then you might strongly consider preparing a living will.
Advance planning for end-of-life decisions is emotional and difficult. It may involve entrusting a loved one to direct a medical provider to end the care that is keeping you alive, which is an enormous responsibility. Whether you interests are best met by using a health care power of attorney, or a health care power of attorney and a living will is a matter you should decide carefully, in conjunction with careful, thoughtful advice from an experienced estate planning attorney. Madison estate planning attorney Daniel J. Krause of Krause Law Offices LLC has years of practice assisting clients with end-of-life planning through the provision of personalized, comprehensive advice and estate plans. Consult Attorney Daniel J. Krause to discuss your needs and goals and get your plan started today.
Contact us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation.
The Importance of Selecting the Right Agents for Your Wisconsin Powers of Attorney, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, June 3, 2013
Powers of Attorney Serve as an Indispensible Part of Your Estate Plan, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, April 16, 2013
Considering Some Tough Wisconsin Estate Planning Questions, Wisconsin Probate & Estate Planning Blog, Oct. 2, 2012