What is a Living Will?

Living Wills

No one likes to think about the possibility of becoming seriously ill or injured, let alone dying. On the other hand, you may have strong opinions on the type of Medicare care and treatment you want – and don’t want – to receive in the event you’re in a situation where you can’t make your wishes known to your doctors and other health care professionals. This is where having a living will becomes so critical.

Even if you’ve expressed your desires to your spouse and/or other trusted family members and friends, you need to put your wishes in writing. That’s what a living will is, i.e., a legal document wherein you state your medical care wishes.

Living Will Requirements

Each state has its own requirements for making a valid living will. They may also have different terminology for it, such as a healthcare directive, advance directive, directive to physicians, etc. Also, while most states require only that you be 18 years or older and mentally competent in order to make a valid living will, other states have additional requirements, such as signing it in front of a notary public or witnesses. Your wisest strategy is to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced local estate planning attorney.

What Your Living Will Can Include

Your living will can be as simple or extensive as you wish. Most people include such things as the following:

  • Whether or not you want to be on a ventilator if you can’t breathe on your own.
  • Whether or not you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops.
  • Whether or not you want tube or IV feeding and hydration if you can’t eat or drink on your own.
  • Whether or not you want certain treatments or drugs to preserve your life at any cost.
  • Whether or not you want certain treatments or drugs even if they may speed up your death.
  • Whether or not you want palliative care, i.e., pain management, only in an end-of-life situation.
  • Whether or not you want certain organs of yours donated to others upon your death.
  • Whether or not you want an autopsy.
  • Whether or not you want to donate your entire body to science.

Living Will Versus Medical Power of Attorney

Keep in mind that your living will is different from a medical power of attorney. While your living will states your medical care wishes, your medical power of attorney appoints someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you can’t make them for yourself. Some states allow you to combine the two into one document, but other states require you to have two separate documents in order to cover all eventualities. An estate planning lawyer in Rochelle Park, NJ from a firm like Kaplan Law Practice, LLC can advise you of your state’s requirements and what documents you need.