Even if we put off making a will, we know in the back of our minds why it’s important. If something happens to us suddenly and it’s all over, we can plan ahead to ensure that our estate is sorted and our loved ones are properly covered. We don’t want to think about that time, but we do it because we know it’s important.

But what about the serious illnesses that aren’t fatal, but seriously impact our lives? What happens in a situation of a serious illness where we can no longer control our own affairs, or have capacity to make decisions? What about advanced care that we may require long-term – how do we know who to trust to look out for us?

There’s more to making a will than just the will itself. Serious illness planning and advanced care planning are crucial as well, and it’s never too early to give them some serious thought.

What is a serious illness?

Think of a serious illness as something unlikely to go away in a matter of a few days. While most of us who took ill with COVID-19 quickly recovered, many others did not, and some still have life-altering complications that they had never expected. There are also countless other illnesses that can seriously impact quality of life – some of which are entirely incurable.

How might a serious illness impact your quality of life? How would you want to handle a diagnosis that you know will eventually leave you incapacitated, or can take your life long-term? What degree of medical intervention would you want in terms of treatment, especially if that treatment only offers a temporary solution?

For example, a treatment like dialysis for kidney failure may be able to keep a person alive for several years, but the process is taxing on the body, and can significantly reduce quality of life. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (or CPR) can obviously save someone whose heart has stopped, but the procedure can be invasive and break ribs, and isn’t always the right answer for someone who is already medically fragile.

Other Considerations

With something like dialysis, even if your quality of life is impacted you can still make decisions in the moment, and with CPR you can make yes-or-no decisions in advance should the need arise. However, what about something like a coma, or another mental incapacity, where you are unable to give instructions long term?

While the idea is grim, there are several points in this scenario worth considering as to how you would want to live your life when you’re not currently in control:

  • Would you want continuous food and nutrition if there was little chance of recovery?
  • Would you want antibiotics administered in case infection sets in?
  • Would you want to be attached to a respiratory machine to breathe for you?

Again, these may be unpleasant thoughts, but contemplating all of this while you’re physically and mentally capable of doing so can help determine the outcome if these situations do arise later on.

Along with making your own decisions, though, you’ll also have one crucial decision to make – who’s in charge of carrying out your wishes?

Deciding Who’s In Charge

When you can no longer make your own decisions, it’s crucially important to have someone in your corner who’s making the right decisions for you. Advanced care planning will help you to spell out several of your wishes on a large scale, but it’s crucial to have someone that you trust who can make the smaller day-to-day decisions about your care.

Remember that decisions about your care are never made in a vacuum, nor are they left exclusively to one single individual. Any decisions made about your care depend of course on the nature of the medical issue, and then are done under the advice of a doctor and any other medical professionals involved.

This same process happens when you’re not able to make those decisions, except it’s somebody that you trust working alongside doctors and nurses to make the decisions hopefully as you would want them to be made. This is why it’s so important to pick someone who understands your values, your beliefs, and what you would want if you were able to articulate it yourself.

Final Thoughts

This is why estate planning is not a ‘one and done’ scenario. When we draft wills for clients, we’ll also draft what are known as Power of Attorney documents, both for property (what to do with your assets), and personal care (how medical decisions are handled) in the event that you’re not able to make these decisions on your own.

It may not be fun to have these conversations in advance, but it’s far less pleasant to be hit with this situation suddenly and be left scrambling to determine your next steps. It’s also unpleasant to not make these decisions at all, which then leaves your family and loved ones struggling to guess at your wishes when they’re already overwhelmed by your illness.

In every aspect of wills and estates law, a little extra planning goes a long way, and a wills and estates lawyer is here to help think of every detail that you might otherwise miss. Contact us today to set up a consultation.