The steps that the late comedienne Joan Rivers took to ensure that her final wishes were met can be used by anyone to be just as prepared for their own passing. While many people consider estate planning as nothing more than preparing a will or trust, there is much more that goes into it. For example, preparing a health care power of attorney or having a do not resuscitate order on file can guide decisions made while a person is still alive.
A living will can also be used to help determine when a person no longer wishes to be kept alive. Without a will or some sort of directive, an individual may not be able to determine when they are taken off of life support. Instead, a family member will have to ask a judge for guardianship.
Needing to make such a move may create infighting within the family. Some family members may have no problem taking an elderly parent off life support while others may not be ready to let go. It is also important to keep such directives updated once created. Otherwise, a person may have an ex-spouse or someone else who doesn't have that person's best interest in mind making end-of-life decisions.
Anyone over the age of 18 can create their own estate plan and end-of-life directives. These documents may determine who makes important decisions when an individual is incapacitated and no longer capable of doing so. A proper estate plan make also make it easier to pass on assets without the need for a fight between family members. Decisions regarding guardianships and other estate planning issues may be made by an individual alone or with the help of an estate planning attorney.
Source: Forbes, "Joan Rivers Can Help With Difficult End-Of-Life Conversations", Danielle and Andy Mayoras , September 10, 2014