Monday, May 4, 2009

Practical, not romantic.

You know what is not romantic? Imagining what will happen when you get sick die or when your partner gets sick or dies. Especially if that is before the wedding. But it is a conversation that you need to have, because every person out there should have a set of advance directives stashed away someplace. (Preferably in a fireproof safe, which every person should own. You can probably register for one if you go through Target.)
Last year, a very good friend of mine went to hockey practice on Thursday night, felt kind of off when she got home, and three days later was breathing off a ventilator in the hospital, the only visitors allowed were friends and family, and she couldn't communicate with anyone.
She eventually recovered and was okay, but that was the kick in the pants I needed to finally write out my advance directives (which I had been meaning to do since Terri Schivo). Advance directives and living will are the same thing, advance directives just sounds nicer in my head.
We weren't engaged yet, and weren't comfortable ceding medical decisionmaking to the other yet, but I knew that if something happened to me, Mark needed to be able to ride in the ambulance with me and visit me in the hospital. My advance directives are very specific about him being "family" for those purposes.
Advance directives are important when you are married because they help you and your partner communicate about what you want, but they are even more important for cohabitating or engaged couples, because cohabitating or engaged couples do not have any legal rights as partners until they are married.
Advance directives take about a half an hour to write out (the .pdf is even interactive for Maryland), and then you just need to sign them with witnesses. For my fellow Marylanders, you can find them here and the addendum on new life saving treatments here. Also check out the WLC Guide for Unmarried Cohabitants. For other states, google advance directives for your state, or write your own based on AG guidelines or other state's forms.
Advance directives are a good way to make sure your partner understands what you want. For example, if Mark was in the hospital, I would have no idea what he would want - whether he would want for me to put him on life support, how long he would want to remain on it, etc. (I do not know this because he did not do his advance directives because he thought it was morbid. So I won't even be visiting him in the hospital.) You learn a lot about your partner when you sit down and do advance directives. It's the kind of thing you hope you'll never need, but you will be so glad to have it if you ever do need it.

Next fall, I will probably do a series of posts on how to write a will and why you need one, so look forward to more practical advice.

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