When Should I Write My Will? A Lesson from House, M.D.

I was watching a rerun of House, MD last night. One of the main character doctors became severely ill over the span of a couple of days. Finally, in severe pain, he was going to be put into a medically induced coma with the chance he might not survive. At this point he feebly tells his colleague “I don’t have a will.” “I’ll get the lawyer” she responds. “And I want you to be my medical proxy,” he adds.

The danger of being a lawyer when you watch this kind of show is that you start thinking “How is a lawyer going to get into that isolation room with some mysterious illness to have his will signed? Will they be able to get a lawyer there within a half hour and how will she get the document printed? And is he really making a good decision about his health care proxy when he’s delirious from pain? Why didn’t he do this sooner? They don’t have a requirement that all hospital employees sign a health care proxy?” And so on.

I have done will signings with clients where I (and my witnesses) have had to don protective clothing before entering the client’s hospital room. I have met with clients who waited until the last minute to make their plans about who would help them when they no longer had capacity. I have been in client’s homes to help them do their wills when they are literally on their death beds.  In each case, I wondered whether the plan the client was making was the same one they would have if they’d done it sooner, before they were sick, before they were in the hospital, before they had so little energy left.

So, for the sake of TV lawyers (who sadly didn’t even make it onto the show) and real lawyers and yourself, make your plans now while you are well, healthy and have the luxury of time to make decisions and change your mind and change it back again. And so that your lawyer doesn’t risk catching primary amoebic meningoencephalitis when they visit you in the hospital.


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