If you are like most people, you have probably heard the term “living will” many times but may not be familiar with the benefits of establishing one. Living wills are end-of-life documents that establish your wishes for medical treatments that you either want or do not want for the purpose of keeping you alive should you become incapacitated and cannot communicate your wishes to your doctors. Also referred to as “advanced health care directives,” living wills have many advantages. Here is what you need to know about living wills:
A Living Will Covers End-of-Life Issues Only
One of the more common misconceptions of living wills is that they are specific to all medical treatments, but this is not the case. Living wills cover end-of-life issues only, and you must be either unconscious or incoherent to the extent that you cannot communicate your wishes to your doctors for this type of will to take effect.
A Living Will Makes Your Medical Wishes Known
A living will spells out very clearly what you want to happen in the event you become medically incapacitated and cannot make your own end-of-life decisions. This eliminates the necessity for family members to have to make difficult choices about taking you off life support, etc. You can also include specific directions concerning what types of care you do and do not want, such as ventilation, artificial hydration, and dialysis, whether you want to donate your organs, and how you want palliative care to be handled.
A Living Will Minimizes Conflict Between Loved Ones
When your wishes are known in advance concerning medical care, your relatives will not be put into the painful and difficult position of having to make these decisions without your input. In these situations, it is common for close relatives and friends to disagree about life-extending treatments. This type of situation is hard enough on everyone involved without people arguing about what kind of treatments should or should not be given.
In Conjunction with a Living Will, a Health Care Power of Attorney Allows You to Appoint a Health Care Agent
While a living will establishes your medical treatment wishes, a health care power of attorney allows you to appoint a health care agent who has the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This can be your spouse, your child, a good friend, or anyone you trust to make the best possible decisions on your behalf. However, it has not required that you appoint a health care agent. If you decide to go this route, it is important to discuss it in detail with the person and get their full agreement because it can be a heavy responsibility.
Living wills can also be changed if you happen to have a change of heart about any of your directives. The laws also vary by state for living wills, so be sure to get the assistance of a skilled, experienced attorney to ensure your document falls within the letter of the law. Please feel free to contact us for more information on establishing a living will.