When we are young, we believe we will always remain healthy, but research begs to differ as almost 54 million Americans face incapacitation due to illness or other reasons. What would you want to happen if you were incapacitated to make decisions for yourself? And perhaps more significantly, do others know what you want? We all feel differently about prolonging our lives with the help of state-of-the-art remedies.
You can specify your preferences and requests in a living will and trust so your family will know what to do in such an emergency. What is living will vs will? You may ask. Despite the names being identical, a living will is distinct from a typical will document used to transfer property and assets to family members or children after a death. Instead, a living will is a method to communicate your preferences for medical care to your family and doctors.
Explaining: Living will
Let us get back to the living will definition. Loved ones frequently have to make hasty judgments over whether to withhold or administer life-sustaining methods during a medical emergency. A living will is a component of advance care planning that specifies your wishes for end-of-life medical treatments or when you become incapacitated.
You might already have a durable power of attorney for health care, which gives your power to a designated agent or proxy to make medical decisions in your stead if you are unable to do so. However, a living will’s directions can only be followed for an individual’s end-of-life care or become incapacitated beyond cure.
A living will is a crucial part of any estate plan, whether assisting a loved one or making one for yourself. With its help, you can feel more at ease about your preferences and make things simpler for your family in an emergency. They won’t have to make wild guesses about your health care wishes and avoid any conflicts among family members due to that reason.
All living will trusts must be written, abiding by the legal state laws. It is insufficient to express your desires vocally or even in writing. If you are terminally ill, perpetually unconscious, or unable to communicate your wishes, you must include what you want to happen in those situations.
People frequently believe that making a living will is only necessary for the old or can wait until they are old enough. However, a sudden illness or accident may occur at any time. A living will may become the difference between your loved ones questioning their decisions when unable to make them for yourself and them knowing they are right.
Now that you have clarity on what is a living will and the definition of a living will, let us delve deeper into how to write one and things to remember when creating it.
How to Write a Living Will?
A Living Will is a legal instrument that informs your loved ones, medical professionals, and caretakers of the life-saving procedures you prefer and do not prefer if you cannot express your intentions. It covers your preferences for life support, medication, ventilation, feeding tubes, and other remedies. Here is a step-by-step example of a living will preparation to remember.
Understand the purpose
Your directions for life-sustaining medical care in the case of a terminal disease or severe accident are mentioned in a living will. It designates a person to act as your agent. This individual, frequently a spouse or family member, makes choices regarding your health care as per your wishes.
Decide future treatment options
It is up to you to choose medical treatments to mention and how you feel about receiving them. What is a quality life to you? What are your beliefs? Discuss every option with your family members and caregivers. It will leave no room for ambiguity. You may specify your wishes, such as:
- Life-support systems, like ventilation, dialysis, feeding tube, and respiratory system.
- Life-sustaining treatments such as chemotherapy, medications, and surgeries, blood transfusions.
- Organ donation and other end-of-life rituals.
Get a living will form provided by your state
Depending on where you live, there are different regulations for a living will. These are legal documents, but the process for creating them varies slightly from state to state. It would be best if you drafted it according to the laws of your residing state. There may be state-specific forms to create a living will as well. If the document is genuine, most states accept these documents and honor your medical care wishes.
Sign, and notarize your living will
An attorney is not required to give your living will meaning. A living will that you draft yourself is equally legitimate as one drafted by a lawyer, provided that it is signed, witnessed, and notarized.
For example, a POLST or MOLST form must be signed off by a medical professional after filling it. However, If required, you can always consult with legal advisors before creating a living will, like seeking the assistance of living trust attorneys.
Update your preferences and store them safely
It is essential to understand that a person’s preferences and values frequently change over time as sickness develops and worsens and one gets closer to their end-of-life journey. Therefore, a living will shouldn’t be a permanent record; it needs periodic updates according to your current preferences for future medical care.
Once you’ve finished writing your living will, keep it safe with your other estate planning papers in a secured location. Additionally, send copies to your doctor, caregiver, and healthcare agent so that they understand your wishes and treat you accordingly.
How Do Living Wills Work?
Once medical professionals decide that you have a grave medical condition, as defined by the laws of your state, and are incapable of communicating your wishes, your living will go into force. One of the importance of living will is that it gives you peace of mind.
This document includes all your end-of-life medical treatment wishes or life-sustaining medical treatment wishes when incapacitated. It is a legal document signed by witnesses and medical professionals, notarized, and aligned with state laws.
A living will work as a beneficial document in various situations. For example, appointing someone as your medical power of attorney, preventing family friction for your end-of-life care decisions, reducing the burden on caregivers, ensuring your intentions of receiving life-prolonging medical support, and many more.
There are instances when a living will is often confused with other legal documents due to the similarity of their names and functions. There are no one-size-fits-all documents in your estate planning. Some, though familiar, are different from a living will. For example, living wills and living trusts sound similar but have distinct functions.
Power of attorney vs Living Will
Even though living wills and a power of attorney are legal instruments that can aid in planning your end-of-life medical treatments, they work differently. A POA legally empowers someone you trust to act on your behalf, including the authority to intervene and make decisions not included in your living will.
But the other one expresses your preferences for medical treatment when you become incapacitated and no longer understand the gravity of your medical choices. If there is no chance of recovery, such as brain dead or a terminal illness, it expresses your preference for life-prolonging procedures.
Now that you understand the importance of a living will, you can make the necessary preparations for circumstances of end-of-life medical care decisions. Many lack preparation, and when the need for medical decisions arises, there is no living will in place. In such cases, the choice of medical treatment is left up to the medical professionals, who may or may not be able to consider the patient’s intentions.
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