To many, planning for their death or the event of incapacitation is simply superstitious or morbid. Passing away without an end of life plan, unfortunately, is all too common. However, in the wake of the aging baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964), having a living will or plan in place is more important than ever. Unfortunately, according to the Associated Press, it is estimated that roughly 64 percent of boomers do not have one.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a document created by individuals who outline specific medical care instructions or health care directives they wish to receive in the event they are unable to speak for themselves because of an illness or incapacitation. The document commonly contains sections that spell out the details of burial wishes, physicians and location of care. Living wills are also referred to as advanced health care directives, personal directives or advanced decisions.

In many cases, a person assigns what’s known as a health care power of attorney or health care proxy in his or her living will. The health care power of attorney will have the duty of making sure the wishes as acknowledged in the living will are carried out.

Living Wills Not Just for the Sick

The USA Today, however, reports that some people are reluctant to create a living will or document designating a health care provider.

A 53-year-old female who exercises five to seven days a week told the newspaper that she doesn’t necessarily think she needs a living will due to her excellent health condition. Others, believing in the “sixty is the new forty,” indicated that a living will or end of life document is needed only for the sick or elderly.

Unfortunately, due to the unpredictable nature of life, anyone, healthy or otherwise, can be struck with an unfortunate or unforeseeable illness, become a casualty in an auto accident, or sustain a life threatening injury.

Other Benefits of Living Wills: Sparing Families

It’s true that living wills are mainly created to spell out the wishes of people unable to make health care decisions on their behalf. But, they are also meant to help family members left behind.

Kathy Brandt, a senior vice president at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, says living wills that detail specific instructions can “spare families a painful fight.” The infamous case involving Terri Schiavo is a prime example.

Schiavo, in good health at 26 years of age, suffered irreversible brain injury after collapsing in her home in 1990 and left her in a permanent vegetable state. She did not have a living will to stipulate the actions her loved ones should take on her behalf in such an event. So, the family members were left to decide on their own which route to take. Schiavo’s husband wanted to end her life because he said that Terri would not have wanted to live in such a state; Terri’s parents, however, disagreed. For years, the family and the courts battled it out; all while Terri was fed through a feeding tube. It wasn’t until 15 years later a decision was made to remove the tube and end her life.

Terri Schiavo was in reasonable health when this unfortunate accident happened and neither she nor her family could’ve ever predicted that something like this would ever happen.

Highlighting the importance of drafting an end of life plan cannot be stressed enough. A simple document could save years of drawn out fighting and court appearances. Just ask the Schiavo family.