It is important that you create a living will as soon as possible. Especially if you're a 20-or-30-something woman. It doesn't hurt to throw in a regular will while you're at it, even if you've only got $5 to your name.
Because Matt and I are young and have very few assets, we had been putting off creating our wills for a while. But last week we finally sat down in front of the computer, and used Quicken WillMaker to bang out some wills, living wills and final arrangements documents. While Matt was filling out his forms, I sat next to him and we talked and laughed about not wanting our ashes being put in cardboard boxes. The gravity of the situation hadn't hit me yet. When it was my turn ... suddenly there was a question in mine that wasn't in his. And all of a sudden, this turned into a huge, life-altering thing.
When you're filling out a living will, it wants to know what your wishes are in case you're terminally ill and/or brain-dead; situations where you can't speak for yourself about what you want to happen to you. By what means do you want to be kept alive? What procedures do you not want to undergo to prolong your life if you're near death or never going to be lucid again? And do you have someone named as your "healthcare agent" who can make these life-or-death decisions for you if you can't?
But then at the end of the document, it asked, "If I am pregnant when my health care directive is considered: a) I direct that it be given no effect during my pregnancy, b) I direct that it be carried out."
I didn't know how to handle that. It's basically asking, "If for some reason you become brain-dead while you're pregnant, do you want us to follow your wishes to continue or discontinue life support, or do you want us to throw your living will out the window and do everything possible to keep the fetus alive?" It's a heavy decision, because suddenly you're making choices for three people. Select one box, and you're choosing to leave your partner a single parent, should the baby survive; choose the other, and your spouse may lose both their wife and child.
It's a hard thing to think about. But it didn't make me angry, just incredibly sad. At least until I read the information sidebar, that is. According to the program (our version is from 2011), "Texas law specifically restricts your right to control your own medical care if you are pregnant. ... The reasoning is that the mother's health care needs may be different from or even secondary to the needs of the fetus." As far as I know, Texas law hasn't changed in the last year or so.
Regardless of which box you would select, I want you to be able to make your own choices for your healthcare. (Though I don't know for sure that checking the second box will actually protect your rights, especially if you're in a state like Texas. So it's equally as important that your spouse and/or healthcare agent knows what you want, so he or she can make proper decisions on your behalf.)
Maybe the law is different in your state, maybe it's not, but if you do not have a living will, these decisions may be made for you if for some reason you are not able to articulate your wishes yourself. So you better make sure your wishes are in writing. And there's no better time than now.
If you don't already have a will or living will, you can use a program like the one we used to create them at no cost (besides the cost of the software), and in some states you may have an option to create one for free online. In both cases, as far as I can tell, you just have to pay a small fee to have it notarized and/or to file it with an attorney. We already had Quicken WillMaker on our computer, and neither of us received compensation for mentioning it here.