A living will describes your preferences for medical treatment and care in the event that you are incapacitated and can no longer communicate your wishes. A living will is sometimes called an advanced directive for health care.
Thinking about your end of life wishes can be overwhelming and scary. People often know their preferences for end of life decisions and may even convey these feelings to loved ones, but never create a living will. Living wills guide your family and friends when making difficult decisions regarding your treatment, and are vital to ensuring that your preferences are clear in regards to life-sustaining measures.
The Components of a Legally Binding Living Will
A person must be at least eighteen years old to create a legally binding living will.
- The living must be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses, at least eighteen years of age, who must also sign the document
- before a notary public, an attorney at law, or another person authorized to administer oaths
A living will can include the naming of a representative (and an alternative representative) who will have medical power of attorney and can make decisions in your best interest. It is important to communicate your wishes to this person in addition to giving him or her a copy of the living will.
When creating your living will, you need to consider different types of life-sustaining treatments and clarify your wishes and instructions for specific types of life-sustaining measures, such as:
- Mechanical ventilation
- Tube feeding
- Antibiotics or antiviral medications
- Comfort care (palliative care)
In your living will, you may also specify your preferences for organ and tissue donations for transplantation and/or donating your body for scientific study.
Some Finer Points:
- Living wills do not expire, and they do not pass through a probate court or judge
- A living will may be updated at any time, but changes must be signed and witnessed
Every state has a different advance directive form, and some states will not use another state’s advance directive. It is important to ensure that you fill out an advance directive form for the state that you live in and for any other states in which you spend significant time
Before a living will can go into effect, two physicians must deem you unable to make medical decisions.
For more information about living wills, visit CaringInfo.org.
Byrnes, O’Hern & Heugle Can Help
You may want to provide special instructions in the living will, but these can sometimes restrict the ability of your representative to remain flexible in the event of changing, complicated, or unforeseen circumstances. It is important to carefully consider how to deliver these special instructions.
Attorneys at Byrnes, O’Hern & Heugle can help you to create a thorough, legally binding living will that reflects your wishes and gives your representative appropriate power of attorney.
Contact us for more information about how we can help you to create your living will.