It’s not pleasant to think about, but life-threatening accidents can happen at any time. No one knows what the future holds, and it’s wise for anyone at any age to have protections in place that state directions for how they want their health to be managed should they not be able to.
A living will ensures your health is managed the way you want it to be and creates clear expectations. If you have a family or loved ones, and you have assets that may help them when you pass on, protecting them through living will preparation helps you get the exact healthcare you want and safeguard the legacy you leave for your family.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will is a written record that explains what a person wants to happen, should they experience a coma for a sustained period or be in a persistent vegetative state – when life support is keeping the person alive. It may include instructions about whether or not a person should be resuscitated, should they stop breathing or their heart stops. It also includes directions to refuse treatments they may not want, such as the placement of a feeding tube. It also designates someone as a healthcare proxy, who will legally make healthcare decisions on the person’s behalf, should they not be able to.
When there are no directions for this type of event, the situation can become even harder for a family and loved ones. Some people close to the person may argue that expensive medical treatments may continue to be administered, despite little health progress. Others may feel burdened and unsure about how to proceed when someone is unresponsive and in a terminal condition.
Having a living will in place is wise not just to avoid painful conflicts among family members and to ensure your wishes are followed. It can also help to protect your finances, since keeping you alive on life support can lead to expensive medical bills that may have been avoided based on your living will directive.
Creating a living will prepares for the worst-case scenario in advance, which can help eliminate confusion, heartache and tension. In a living will, the person who is writing it creates instructions for how healthcare personnel should handle a dire situation like this. You become in control of your body, and your wishes are carried out. Your family and loved ones can experience peace that your will is being implemented.
Can You Create a Living Will on Your Own?
While technically anyone of the age 18 years or older can draft a living will, there may be voids in what is created. It may not cover a wide enough variety of situations, or clearly explain terms. This means that tension and even litigation may still arise even if you’ve created your own living will.
A living will may not even be legally effective if it doesn’t meet certain requirements. In this case, your family and loved ones may go to court to establish guardianship and make your health decisions for you. The guardian may make a decision that was not in your best interest or the best interest of your loved ones.
Every state’s requirements for a living will are different. For many states, requirements for a living will include that it is signed by two witnesses. Neither witness can be a healthcare provider, anyone employed by your healthcare provider, a person who may be someone who is a beneficiary to your estate, or a creditor. Working with a living will attorney ensures you include all the pertinent information that makes it legal, as well as ensures the correct types of witnesses are present to sign it.
What Should You Do with a Living Will?
When you have created a living will, you should provide your doctor or healthcare provider with a copy of it. You can also provide your family or loved ones with copies, or, at the very least, tell them what is in it.
You can make changes to a living will at any time, if you are mentally competent. Any changes will need to be executed correctly to be lawfully effective, including gathering new witness signatures. When you make any changes to a living will, provide new copies to a doctor or healthcare provider, and alert your family or loved ones about the changes, as well.
Living wills are essential but can include some complexities to create them effectively. Consulting with a lawyer can ensure you’ve included all necessary items and have made your living will legal. If you love your loved ones, a living will is beneficial to have for you and those you care about.