A living will is an important legal document that can be used to plan for future incapacity or illness. It is mostly used to plan for end-of-life care, although it can be useful at any stage of life.
A living will is also known as either an advance healthcare directive or an advance decision. It can often be an essential part of your estate planning or for any sudden injury or disability.
This article explains how living wills function. Read on to learn how they are activated should you fall seriously ill and how you can write your own living will effectively.
When Are Living Wills Used?
A living will can serve in many different situations. However, it is mostly used for people experiencing terminal illness or advanced age to plan for palliative care.
However, many younger, healthier individuals also create a living wills as part of their estate planning process. This allows them to plan for any future injury or illnesses that could cause life-threatening complications.
If there is no living will, medical decisions when the patient is unconscious will normally be left to the person’s spouse or another close member of their family. If you have left no clear instructions on your desires, they will be empowered to make these potentially life-saving choices for you.
How is a Living Will Activated?
A legally valid living will can only be activated and used if you are experiencing a life-threatening medical situation and you cannot consent to urgent treatment yourself. This could be due to being unconscious, disabled, or in a coma.
If any of these situations occur, your living will must be followed by medical professionals. The document itself instructs healthcare providers on any pre-confirmed medical decisions you wish to make regarding a number of types of treatment.
The types of therapy a living will can cover could include:
- Life support
- CPR and resuscitation
- Tube feeding
- Invasive surgery
- Whether you wish to donate your organs or tissues
How To Write a Living Will
A living will must be written clearly in plain English to make sure that the writer’s medical preferences are clear. Otherwise, it could delay effective treatment.
It is possible to write your own living will without paying costly attorney fees. LawDistrict offers an easy to complete living will document that can be easily customized for an individual’s needs.
In order to know what to include in your advanced directive and to complete your document effectively follow these steps:
- Research your state’s requirements
- Decide what treatment you would be comfortable with having if faced with a life-threatening illness or injury
- Speak to friends and family members to indicate your medical preferences and make them aware you are planning a living will
- Complete a pre-made living will form
- If for any reason you wish to refuse any life-saving intervention or procedures you must add a sentence explicitly stating your preferences
- Sign and date your form in the presence of a witness, who must also sign and date the document as well
- Some states may also require the signing to be notarized too
- Provide your doctor with a copy of the document in case it is needed in the future and also keep a copy for yourself
Be aware, however, a living will is effective as soon as it is signed and (if necessary) notarized. However, it can be withdrawn by the person it covers at any time as long as they are sound of mind. You can also modify it at any time if your wishes change at any point in the future.
Living Will vs Last Will and Testament
A living will and a last will and testament are both types of wills although they have distinct differences in when they can be used. Fundamentally the rule is that a last will and testament is written for after you die whilst a living will applies whilst you are still alive but unconscious.
Living Will vs Medical Power of Attorney
A living will has some similarities with a Medical Power of Attorney in that they allow your medical decisions to be made without your spoken permission.
However, Medical Powers of Attorney nominate an agent (also known as a medical Attorney in Fact or proxy) who is empowered to make medical decisions on your behalf. This is in contrast to a living will that explicitly allows you to pre-decide your own healthcare during incapacity.