When done correctly, estate planning involves more than simply deciding who will receive your estate assets when you are gone. In fact, a well thought out estate plan can do as much to protect you while you are alive as is does to provide for loved ones when you are gone. Although there is no such thing as a “standard” estate plan, there are some components that are frequently found in a comprehensive estate plan. One of those is an Advanced Directive component. The State of Illinois recognizes four different Advance Directive options, including a Health Care Power of Attorney, a Mental Health Treatment Preference Declaration, a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR)/Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), and a Living Will. If you are creating or updating your estate plan, how do you know if you need an Illinois Living Will?
Advanced Directives Explained
Throughout the course of your life, you routinely make decisions relating to your healthcare treatment. Some of those decisions are relatively minor while some are life-changing. The important point, however, is that you have the right to make each and every one of those decisions. What happens, though, if you are unable to make a healthcare decision because you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated? For example, what would happen if you were in a car accident that caused serious enough injuries that you were in a temporary coma? Clearly, you would be unable to make healthcare related decisions for yourself. Similarly, what would happen if you one day suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and were permanently incapacitated as a result? Someone would have to make medical decisions on your behalf; however, the idea of not having a voice in your own healthcare treatment is something that doesn’t sit well with most people. Advanced Directives are a way to resolve this dilemma. An Advance Directive is a written statement you prepare now that allows you to express how you want medical decisions to be made in the future in the event you are not able to make them yourself for any reason.
What Decisions Can You Make in an Illinois Living Will?
Like most people, you may have heard the term “Living Will” before; however, you may not be entirely clear what a Living Will is, and what decisions you can make in one. An Illinois Living Will allows you to decide what, if any, death delaying (also referred to as life-prolonging) procedures you wish to agree to in the event you are ever suffering from a terminal condition that renders you unable to express your wishes at that time. For the purpose of an Illinois Living Will, a “terminal condition” is defined as “an incurable and irreversible condition such that death is imminent and the application of any death delaying procedures serves only to prolong the dying process.” You can authorize or refuse specific treatments in your Living Will or you can simply include a blanket refusal that applies to all death-delaying procedures. Except under very limited circumstances, such as if you are pregnant and could have a live birth, the terms in your Living Will must legally be honored if you are suffering from a “terminal condition.”
Your Advanced Directives Are State Specific
One other aspect of Advanced Directives that you need to understand is that they are state specific, meaning that state law governs them. What this means to you is that your Illinois Living Will may, or may not, be recognized in another state. Furthermore, the decisions you are allowed to make, and the definitions used, in your Illinois Living Will may not be the same as those of a Living Will from another state. Therefore, if you already have a Living Will that you executed in another state, and have recently moved to Illinois, it is best to consult with an Illinois estate planning attorney to determine if the State of Illinois will honor your existing Living Will, or if you need to execute an Illinois Living Will. The same applies to other Advanced Directives you may have created in another state.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding Advanced Directives in general, of an Illinois Living Will specifically, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Hedecker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.
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