Making a decision regarding what’s right for your own well being can be a difficult task at the best of times, but the thought of being unable to make that decision owing to mental or physical incapacity is an altogether more worrying state of affairs.
If you are unable to care for yourself, there are a number of legally protective steps that you can take as a means of ensuring the correct decisions are made on your behalf, should you not be capable.
The British government specifies that every adult who is deemed mentally capable has the right to refuse or accept whatever medical treatment is prescribed by a healthcare professional. So there exists an advanced directive or living will: a set of instructions that you are able to dictate which describes your future wishes with regards to medical care.
If it is deemed that you ‘lack capacity’, as defined by the 2005 Mental Capacity Act, your advanced directive – made when you are deemed mentally capable – takes precedence over any decisions that you make in your mentally deteriorated state. Advanced directives are invoked by a designated healthcare proxy, which you will appoint, who plays a role similar to that of the executor of a will.
Advanced directives allow you to make decisions regarding a wide range of treatment possibilities, and are increasingly being used by those suffering from terminal illnesses where one’s mental faculties are known to deteriorate.
The decisions covered by an advanced directive relate to: the use of intravenous fluids, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, life-saving treatments where brain functionality is inherently impaired (such as in the case of a stroke) and other specific procedures, such as blood transfusions.
If you are suffering from a long-term illness, or potentially fatal condition, making a will is an essential undertaking.
A will is the only legally binding means you have of ensuring that the beneficiaries of your estate are those who you intended them to be. A well-written will, made up by a reputable solicitor, such as those found at Co-operative Legal Services, enables you to give one final gift to your loved ones, at an extremely difficult time.
Failure to make a will, however, means that your estate will become subject to the rules of intestacy.
The rules of intestacy
The rules of intestacy are very clear and well documented, strictly laying out the order of priority in which your family will inherit your estate. While this may be acceptable to some, the inherent, traditionalist nature of the rules means that cohabitants and friends have no legal claim to your estate.
If you wish the beneficiaries of your estate to be a friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, or even a charity, making a will is the only way of legally ensuring that your wishes are adhered to.
Don’t leave it to chance
If you’re currently in a state of ill-health, or your health is slowly deteriorating, the only means of ensuring that your desires are carried out is to contact a professional body, such as Co-operative Legal Services, to help you draft an advanced directive and/or will.
With these articles prepared, you can rest assured that you are legally protected if you reach a stage where you can’t care for yourself.