When you’re a young adult or middle-aged, it may seem unnecessary or impractical to think about end-of-life documents when the probability of your death seems far away. Nonetheless, when you contact your Massachusetts estate planning attorney to begin protecting your assets and preparing for retirement, she or he will no doubt advise you to make end-of-life documents part of your proactive process.
The reality is that anyone can pass away due to an injury or a sudden illness and no one expected their lives to be cut so short. According to The Washington Post, there has been an increase in deaths among young Americans during the past few decades. Well before the pandemic, The Washington Post reported in 2019 that there had been a 6 percent rise in death among working-age Americans between 2010 and 2017, and a 29 percent increase in the U.S. death rates among those between the ages of 25 and 34 during the same period. As you can see, even before COVID-19, life expectancy among Americans had decreased for the first time since World World I.
Why These Statistics Matter to You
The causes of these statistics are complex. The reasons are a myriad of health or mental health problems which may not have previously existed but attention should be paid because of the impact they may have on our own families. Clearly, life in the 21st century is as unpredictable as ever.
It is important to prepare for an unexpected illness and to have certain vital documents prepared so your wishes are known. Whether you have a large estate to protect and pass on, or, moderate assets worth preserving, preparing a will or trusts, will help you to document your end-of-life decisions so that:
- You can have control of your healthcare in the case of an incapacity
- You can relieve your loved ones of the worry that they may not be following your wishes
The End-of-Life Documents We All Need
It may come to you as you are persuading your parents to take steps to get their papers in order, that maybe it’s time for you to do the same. In addition to being a necessary action in its own right, this will make you a fine role model for your elders and, depending on your age, for your adult children.
The documents we’re discussing here are not your will and possible trusts which in some ways are easier to deal with emotionally, being more financially, and less viscerally, oriented. The end-of-life documents we mean are these:
Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy designates a person (known as your “agent”) in whom you trust to make medical decisions — such as whether you want to be intubated or have a feeding tube — if you become unable to communicate. You may choose any competent person 18 or older to fill this slot and may change your agent at will, though the process must be formalized. A health care proxy is an especially critical document in Massachusetts, one of only three states that does not hold advanced directives (living wills) to be legally binding.
Advanced Directive (Living Will)
Your advanced directive itemizes which actions you do and don’t want to be taken if you are at the end of your life. In spite of the fact that this document will not be legally binding in Massachusetts, it is a good idea to fill one out and provide copies to your health care proxy, your doctor, and perhaps another family member so that they all have a clear statement of your wishes.
Contacting Us for Your Peace of Mind and the Peace of Mind of Your Loved Ones
Working with the compassionate, highly skilled estate planning attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski will make the whole process smooth. For us, these matters are routine, and we will put you completely at your ease.