Are you a Mother? Here are some Estate Planning Considerations you Need to Know

As modern medicine now allows doctors the potential to save unborn children after the mother becomes incapacitated, legal contingencies for such heart-wrenching events have increasingly found their way into trust estate plans. Would you want to be kept alive in a vegetative state while pregnant? In such a circumstance, what would you instruct the hospital to do?

It’s an incredibly shocking scenario to fathom, and many would prefer not to think about it. Difficult though it may be, it’s something that should be brought to the attention of every woman of childbearing age and addressed.

A Heart-Wrenching Example

Consider an experience one family had to go through in the 2010s when a family in Texas had to contend with these excruciating questions. The woman, expecting the family’s second child, became brain-dead at the fourteenth week of pregnancy. After she was initially placed on life support, the situation became further complicated:

  • Medical reports showed that the unborn child was failing to develop properly;
  • The woman’s husband wanted her to be removed from life support, stating that his wife would not have wanted to be kept alive in such a state;
  • Texas, however, had a law requiring pregnant women to be kept on life support no matter what.

In this case, the woman also did not have a medical directive making her intentions clear for such a situation. Since Texas law likely would have overridden her living will anyway (especially if unchallenged in the courts), it remains unforeseen how a properly written advanced directive would have altered the situation to the family’s liking.

One thing that remains clear, though, is that most states do heed the choice of pregnant women to preemptively decide whether or not they want to be kept on life support if afflicted with an irreversible vegetative condition and the unborn child fails to develop properly.

Almost every woman of childbearing age has the ability to deeply consider what they would like to be done if they (and their unborn baby) found themselves in a similar situation.

Advancing Your Directives

For the vast majority of women, difficult medical decisions surrounding one’s incapacity does not have to be left for the family or the courts to decide. Including a “pregnancy override clause” into one’s living will gives expecting mothers the best possible assurances that:

  • They can be sustained by life support systems if they want;
  • Doctors can carefully determine the chances of their baby developing properly;
  • The chances of a safe delivery can be improved;
  • Safe delivery of the baby can be attempted with the greatest chances of success.

However, ensuring that your pregnancy override clause – and your living will, for that matter – are in full legal force and effect is another matter. To do so, it is vital that you enlist the support of a lawyer who is equally well-versed in family trust and estate planning, as well as medical laws related to pregnancy.

Get Help Clarifying Your Will

A lawyer wielding such expertise can help you decide what’s best for you and your unborn child. Naturally, a plethora of questions will emerge that are worth your consideration, such as:

  • What are your state laws related to pregnancy and incapacity?
  • What about early-term pregnancies?
  • What if the doctors knew that your unborn child was not developing properly due to your vegetative condition?
  • Would you and your spouse prefer to let them make the decision?
  • Would you rather have other family members make the call?
  • What are your moral beliefs around the issue? What does your conscience say?

There are no easy answers, and the women who themselves must make the difficult decision will naturally have a difficult time imagining themselves in such an extreme situation.

Many women choose to contemplate this scenario by discussing it with::

  • Their spouse;
  • Family members;
  • Close friends;
  • Trusted legal counsel;
  • Spiritual leaders;
  • Health advisors.

Expert Family Estate Planning for Any Situation

If you’re asking yourself any similar questions to these – or even just require thorough family estate planning services in general – it’s important to receive expert assistance. Only then can you rest assured that your family’s legacy will live on under even the toughest conditions.

For help with these or similar matters, don’t hesitate to contact Laura Meier to secure your family’s estate far into the future with a properly set up estate plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if there is no living will during a pregnancy?

In the event of a traumatic injury, pregnant women without an adequate living will may – or most likely will be subject to some combination of laws set by the state they’re from and the state they’re in during the accident, if different.

What happens if those laws conflict?

The same thing that happens when any laws conflict: those who care deeply enough about the issue will press the matter in the courts. Without a huge amount of case law on the issue, the matter will likely be hotly contended.

What should concerned pregnant women do?

In most states, the terms of the living will are the law – and even if your state laws appear to override it, it’s still advantageous to make your intention known in the clearest possible way. Having it drafted professionally will give it all the more stability in the face of any legal attack your surviving loved ones could potentially have to go through.