After her fatherâ€™s death five years ago, Daria Hall, then 24, wasnâ€™t afraid to confront the issue of her own mortality. Hall drew up a legal â€śliving willâ€ť in large part because her father passed away without one. A living will, also known as a healthcare proxy, is a document that allows people to express their wishes regarding specific medical treatments in the event that they are dying, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to communicate their preferences.
â€śToward the end of his life, my dad wasnâ€™t able to make decisions regarding his healthcare,â€ť recounts the now 29-year-old New Yorker. â€śThere were some issues regarding his mental stability, and it would have been good to know what his end-of-life wishes actually were.â€ť
Hall is rare. Studies suggest African Americans are largely unaware of living wills and their value. According to a recent report from the National Center for Health, just 13% of African Americans have a living will in place compared with 32% of whites. â€śLiving wills are just not discussed very much,â€ť says Alfred Osbourne, financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial Inc.in East Meadow, New York. â€śPlus, as a whole, no one wants to face the fact that weâ€™re all going to pass away; that makes people afraid to discuss these types of issues.â€ť
Her fatherâ€™s lack of a living will put stress on Hall and the rest of her family. None of them were sure how to best approach her fatherâ€™s care as the end drew near. â€śThere was no support system in place and nothing to refer to for information on what his wishes really were,â€ť says Hall. â€śThat made a challenging situation that much more stressful.â€ť
Not wanting her future children to one day deal with those challenges, Hall attended a legal counseling seminar and then drew up the document with the help of a prepaid legal firm. â€śAs the head of household, I want to make sure everything is in place,â€ť says Hall, who now has a 2-year-old son, Xavier. â€śI never want my loved ones to be worried or concerned about my wishes if I was ever unable to speak for myself.â€ť
How To Begin
Naturally, the idea of coming up with directives that could be used to dictate your end-of-life care will seem daunting or foreign, but financial adviser Christopher Gandy of Water Tower Financial Partners in Chicago says the process is fairly straightforward. Consider the project a vital part of a solid financial plan, he says.
Start by envisioning a scenario where you are unable to make your own decisions. Consider exactly how youâ€™d want your healthcare handled. If you were in a coma, for example, at what point would you ask to be removed from life support? Or, if your life is being sustained by a feeding tube, would you want the device removed so that you could pass on? These issues are important, notes Osbourne, because without a directive, doctors will be forced to prolong your life.