A living will is a legal document that allows you to express your wishes to doctors, should you become physically or mentally incapacitated. It is the oldest form of an advance directive. A living will should not be confused with aliving trust—we will discuss living trusts in a later article. Living wills typically deal with situations involving life-prolonging procedures and incurable injuries, diseases, or illnesses. A living will typically outlines certain life-prolonging treatments, and the treatment plan you wish to be administered in the event of your incapacitation.
Living wills are often executed along with a legal document known as a healthcare power of attorney, which gives someone authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. The person appointed should consider your ultimate wishes when making these decisions. Thus, it is extremely important to have a discussion with the person before appointing him or her. You need to make sure the designated person fully understands your wishes and the burden he or she is undertaking.
A living will does not go into effect unless you are incapacitated, and even then, usually a doctor’s certification is needed before the living will becomes effective. For example, if you have a stroke, but otherwise do not have any terminal illness and are not permanently unconscious, a living will does not have any effect. Furthermore, you can customize the different components of your living will, such as (1) the triggering event for your living will to take effect and (2) the priority of the living will and the healthcare power of attorney.
Who Uses a Living Will?
For some time, only elderly people who were nearing death utilized living wills. These days, however, more and more people are executing living wills to be on the safe side. Ultimately, it is your decision to execute a living will or not. If you trust your healthcare providers and your family, or if you simply do not have a preference one way or the other, you may not want a living will. Ultimately, a living will provides you with a mechanism whereby you can make advanced decisions regarding life-prolonging treatment.
How do I get one?
The decision to execute a living will and healthcare power of attorney is an easy one. It is important to have these advance directives in place, as it aids and informs your loved ones and healthcare providers of your desires for medical treatment in the event you become incapacitated. Unfortunately, the particular provisions of a living will and healthcare power of attorney can be somewhat complicated and difficult to understand. The best way to ensure that you fully understand your living will and the provisions contained therein is to sit down with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. Only then can you make an informed decision.
The attorneys at GRIFFITH LAW GROUP routinely assist people in understanding, drafting, and executing living wills and healthcare power of attorney forms. If you would like our help, please contact us.