If you have already taken the step of creating a last will that outlines who should receive which assets that you own, you may think that your estate planning is done. In reality, estate planning is much more complex than listing heirs and beneficiaries. A good estate plan addresses other concerns as well, even those that may arise before you pass away.

A living will is a collection of documents that outlines your preferences and creates legal authority for someone you trust if you cannot make medical and financial decisions on your own. Creating a living will not only protects you from improper decisions regarding your medical care, but it also protects your family members from the stress of trying to make those decisions on your behalf.

There are many situations in which someone may need a living will

If Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that lead to dementia run in your family, it is possible that you may find yourself in a position someday where you are alive but unable to make decisions in your own best interest.

Having a living will in place before the beginning of cognitive decline provides guidance for your family members regarding the sort of care you want to receive. More importantly, it provides legal authority to trusted individuals who can manage your financial affairs and make medical decisions on your behalf.

Even those without a worrisome family medical history should consider creating a last will. Sudden medical events, such as a stroke or pulmonary embolism, could leave you incapacitated or unconscious for long periods of time. Similarly, accidents, ranging from vehicle accidents to a serious fall, could put you in a coma or cause such severe brain injury that you can no longer provide care for yourself.

In the event that you wind up medically incapacitated, your living will helps to ensure that the people who care for you can make decisions that mirror your wishes.

A living will empowers others and outlines your wishes

One of the most important steps to creating a living will is defining your wishes in an advanced medical directive. This document will specify the kinds of care you want to receive, ranging from resuscitation to life support.

Having your wishes spelled out clearly in an easily accessible document ensures that your family members will know exactly what to do in the event that something tragic happens to you. Your living will can also name individuals whom you trust to hold power of attorney to make medical decisions and take financial action on your behalf when you are unable to do so. These limited documents will not impact your family unless you become incapacitated.

Taking the time to create a living will will give you peace of mind as you move forward with life. It will also help your family deal with a worst-case scenario if something tragic ever happens to you. Creating a living will should be part of your estate planning efforts.