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Should you have a living will in place?

By Athenkosi Sawutana

When you hear the word will, the only thing that comes to mind is the document that states who is going to inherit you property when you’re dead.

But have you thought about who’s going to decide what happens to you when you become incapacitated? A living will can help you do just this.

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What is a living will?

A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a document that sets out your wishes so that your doctors and loved ones know what you’d want. It speaks for you when you are unable to, says Michelle Domisse, founder of Michelle Domisse and Associates.

The time may come when you can no longer make decisions about your future, says Francois Genis, operation manager for Momentum Trust.

For instance, when your physical or mental condition deteriorates to such an extent that there is no reasonable prospect of your recovery, a living will gives permission to your loved ones and doctors to carry out your wishes. 

How does it work?

For the will to be valid, you must have written it when you were a legal age – 18 and above – and be mentally able to make your decisions. Additionally, you must not have changed your mind after issuing the directive.

According to the South African Medical Association, there is no law that states how the living will should be enforced. However, there must be guidelines that can be followed by the doctors.

ALSO READ: Why is it important to update your will?

The association says that you should seek medical advice and counselling when drafting your will. You must discuss the specific terms with your doctor.

It warns that the living will may not be honoured at all times. For instance, if the will refers to a specific condition, it will not apply when that condition does not exist. If it’s too general and vague, the doctors will have to rely on their professional judgement to reach a decision.

Why do you need it?  

Genis says having a living will gives you peace of mind.

“Some people do not want their families to go through the trauma of seeing them in hospital attached to a machine that keeps them alive without any chance of ever waking up,” says Genis.

They also want to save their family’s money because of the expenses related to their prolonged treatment.   

How is it different from the last will?

The last will speaks on your behalf after you have passed on. It contains your wishes as to who should inherit your assets. A living will speaks on your behalf while you are “alive”.

Any good will-drafting service can help you draft a living will. You can even speak to your insurer about it.

Justmoney partners can also help you draft a will. Contact us at info@justmoney.co.za for more information.

 

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