Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: The Benefit of Advance Directives

The Benefit of Advance Directives

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows one in four elderly people require someone else to make decisions about their medical care at the end of their lives.

These findings support the value of advance healthcare directives as a means of making end-of-life treatment preferences known (sometimes called anticipatory directives or living wills).

The study found that such formal estate planning documents improved the likelihood that a patient’s wishes would be followed and reduced emotional trauma among family members.

The results illustrate the value of people making their end-of-life wishes known in an advance directive (living will) as well as designating someone to make treatment decisions for them before the end-of-life stage.  This is why both a Natural Death Advance Directive and a Medical Power of Attorney are necessary parts of a modern integrated estate plan.  Each document fulfils a specific purpose.

The Associated Press reports: “In the study, those who spelled out their preferences in living wills usually got the treatment they wanted. Only a few wanted heroic measures to prolong their lives. The researchers said it’s the first accounting of how many of the elderly really end up needing medical decisions made for them.”

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Planning an Enduring Legacy

Planning an Enduring Legacy

What do you want to be remembered for, after you’re gone?

Traditional Wills describe the worldly possessions you want your loved ones to have. This sort of document is the oldest and best known component in estate planning.

In addition to the Will there are additional types of documents that are now widely recommended as part of modern integrated estate planning. These include Advance Medical Directives which may be used to express your wishes with regard to medical preferences in case you subsequently find yourself in a situation where you can’t make your own decisions. This sort of “Living Will” can address issues relating to end-of-life decisions such as life support and to define the extent of use of artificial means to keep you alive if there is no hope of recovery.  There are also all sorts of other documents which allow you to delegate control and decision-making, such as various categories of Powers-of-Attorney.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: The End of Life Debate in Australian Estate Planning

In June 2010 the Supreme Court of South Australia Court effectively granted an elderly woman’s wish to die.

The End of Life Debate in Australian Estate Planning

The woman was in her 70s and confined to a wheelchair. She instructed her nursing home to stop giving her food and drink and the drug insulin, knowing she would die.

She clearly asserted her right to refuse to take food and medication. The Court case was instigated by the Nursing Home in which she resided, because of concerns that her carers might face prosecution for assisting in a suicide or committing other crimes if it complied with her desires.

The judgment is a first in South Australia and reflects a similar ruling in Western Australia in 2009, where the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, held that Christian Rossiter be allowed to withdraw nutrition & medication, even though the undoubted consequence of this would lead to his death.

Rossiter had become a quadriplegic after a road accident, and retained full ability to understand his condition and to make reasoned choices on his own behalf. His fully functioning mind was trapped within a body which was unable to undertake any basic human functions’. Nutrition was provided to him through a tube inserted directly into his stomach.