What Is A Living Will?

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“What is a living will? A loved one often has to decide quickly whether to provide life-sustaining treatment or withhold it during a medical crisis. As part of advance care planning, living will specify how to proceed if you cannot communicate your wishes on your own regarding receiving or declining such treatments.”

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What Is A Living Will?

Your chosen agent or representative may act when you become incapacitated. However, a living will only applies when the person named in the will cannot recover or recover.

Living wills can be a lifeline for loved ones unable to make end-of-life medical decisions for them, or they can assure that they made the right decision for you.

 

Living Wills: What Are They?

Legal documents called a living will offer directions for medical treatment or the end of medical treatment when needed. Suppose you become incapacitated and incapable of communicating usually. A living will indicate your wishes for life-preserving treatments.

Incapacitation occurs when you cannot communicate rationally and coherently, such as in a coma or on life support. A doctor or medical professional determines and certifies incapacitation.

You can write a living will that includes instructions for resuscitation if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. Your body or brain can stop functioning naturally if you receive hydration or nutrition through a feeding tube. They also include instructions about life-sustaining measures.

Depending on your conditions, your living will may include information about treatments you currently receive for cancer and treatments you anticipate receiving.

 

Exactly How Living Will Work?

Even though a living will is among the many information sources, doctors may use to decide how to treat you. A living will is just one of several sources of information that advance directives work. Communication is one thing that depends on your ability to communicate, and other documents might also help.

Living will work in the following ways:

  • You must notarize and have witnesses sign it to be valid in your state.
  • An older living will have inaccurate information about your current wishes. And you don’t want your wishes to change by new information or life changes.
  • A living will take effect when you cannot communicate your treatment preferences.
  • Doctors will likely lean heavily on your personal preferences before consulting any documents, even if you have a living will.

 

The Contents of a Living Will

The following scenarios can serve as a starting point for drafting your living will. And you should talk to an attorney and a doctor before making final decisions. Living wills are only intended for medical and end-of-life care. They should be able to consider any health concern and the possible treatment outcomes.

 

Assistance with breathing

If your body can no longer breathe, a ventilator helps maintain your breathing. As a result, it’s essential to consider whether or not you would like to stay on a ventilator and for how long.

 

Feedings supplemental

When you can’t feed yourself, tube feeding can provide crucial nutrients. It is essential if you wish to receive food intravenously or with a stomach tube to make a provision in your living will to specify how long you would like the treatment to continue.

 

Treating and medicating

You can fight infections and remove waste with antibiotics and dialysis. In many cases, these treatments can save your life, but you may not wish to receive them for an extended period. To make an informed decision about the treatment and care you receive, talk to your doctor about various options and their side effects.

 

Providing palliative care to patients

When we talk about palliative care, we often refer to it as “comfort care. Because it offers a quality of life and pain management while you undergo treatment. It may include pain medication, avoiding aggressive treatments, and invasive tests for comfort while you undergo treatment.

 

Donations of bodies

A living will let you decide whether to donate:

  • Organs in your body
  • The tissues of your body
  • The entire body

You can also declare that if you want your body donated for scientific research.

 

Decisions made after death

As part of the living will, you may consent to organ and other bodily donations as well as:

 

Identifying the cause and manner of death through an autopsy

The handling of your remains through cremation, burial, or any other method

 

A Living Will: How to Write One.

Depending on what the state requires, an estate plan is necessary. Make sure you note your state’s requirements to ensure yours is enforceable. It is a good idea to ensure your living will is enforceable if you spend a lot of time in other states. Here are some tips for writing a living will.

 

A Living Will: How to Write One.

 

Consult your doctor first.

Discussing your future care is essential. They can walk you through all treatment options and procedures, assisting you in making an informed decision about your care.

 

Choose the type of care you want

You should consider the number of treatments you would be willing to endure and how long you might be willing to remain on specific regimens. Your living will should reflect your concerns regarding comfort if that is a priority.

 

Communicate with close family and friends.

Creating a living will relieve your friends and family from making difficult decisions. Explain your wishes to them so they are informed.

 

Name the person who should make decisions on your behalf.

When unforeseen complications arise, you will need a representative who represents your best interests in the event of an unforeseen complication.

Unlike a financial power of attorney, this legally appointed individual can act in your financial interest. You can choose a healthcare proxy called a Power of Attorney for Health Care. A legally appointed person who makes healthcare decisions on your behalf. Depending on your state, you can include a health care power of attorney in your living will or include it as a separate document.

When choosing your healthcare proxy and representative with power of attorney, you must consider the potential for conflict if the same person fills both roles.

 

Obtain legal assistance

It is essential to work with a lawyer when creating a living will ensure the document reads clearly and precisely so that it leaves little or no room for interpretation.

Sign the living will following your state’s laws, which usually include notifying a notary or having witnesses witness it. You can update your living will at any time by completing a new document, but you must destroy all previous versions before doing so.

 

Make sure all essential parties have a copy of your will.

If you don’t realize that many people need access to your living will, it may be tempting to keep it private. If they can’t find it, they may not recognize your wishes. Keep an original copy at home, and share additional copies with:

  • Doctors
  • A file from the hospital
  • A power of attorney or proxy for your health care
  • Those closest to you
  • Keep an exact duplicate of the living will and share it with multiple people to ensure your wishes and preferences regarding care are always at the forefront.

 

How to Do Living Wills and Advance Directives Differ?

Californians can create a living will, a power of attorney to handle their finances, and a health care proxy as part of advance directives.

If you become incapacitated or unable to communicate your wishes for medical and life-sustaining treatments, your advance health directive ensures your wishes are documented and carried out. A state’s definition of an advance directive may overlap with other states’ definitions.

 

Subsets of advanced medical directives.

Living wills are subsets of advanced medical directives. They are legal documents enabling people to decide how their end-of-life medical care will occur. Allowing the person executing the document to decide in advance whether they wish to stay alive through medical treatments and technological advancements like a feeding tube or ventilator prevents a tragic and frustrating situation.

There are several situations in which a living will is helpful:

  • An injury or illness that leaves one physically incapacitated
  • Disabilities caused by dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • Consciousness loss

 

Examples of advanced medical directives

Medical powers of attorney or living wills are examples of advanced medical directives that allow individuals to consent to receive all the medical treatments they need to survive, including artificial treatments like hydration, feeding, and respiration through tracheotomies and ventilators.

An alternative option is to instruct the attorney-in-fact not to consent to surgery, artificial therapies, or other medical procedures.

 

How Are Living Wills And Medical Powers Of Attorney Different?

Healthcare durable powers of attorney may contain instructions for end-of-life treatments or measures to reduce certain types of treatment. These two documents, however, differ significantly in their functions.

In addition to indicating who will make medical decisions, living wills also include a waiver of HIPAA. The living will indicate what type of care the individual wishes to receive.

 

Refers to as a health care proxy in California

It is common for living wills and health care proxy documents to be separate documents in California and many states. A medical power of attorney sometimes refers to as a health care proxy in California, where they combine them into one advance health care directive.

Suppose you become incapacitated and can’t communicate medical decisions for yourself. The healthcare proxy you’ve appointed will fulfill your wishes for medical care. In addition to consenting to or declining treatments that might lead to your recovery. Your healthcare proxy may also represent your interests.

A health care proxy named in a document can carry out or decline your living will’s instructions regarding health care treatment. When you name a person your health care proxy, a living will is a helpful document for them to read and understand.

 

Despite Their Similarities Between A Living Will And A Last Will There are Some Differences.

Despite their similarities, living wills, last wills, and testaments serve entirely different purposes. Both are legally binding documents that carry out the wishes of their principals.

If the principal is incapacitated and incapable of communicating decisions about life-sustaining treatment, they can write a living will. By contrast, a last will is a document that directs the executor of the principal’s estate on how to distribute certain assets and property upon their death.

 

Is A Living Will Necessary?

Everyone should think about living wills, which can provide peace of mind for you and your family.

Living wills are essential if you are undergoing surgery or if you are ill. They allow you to consider all your options carefully and prevent difficult choices for your loved ones.

A living will is essential if you are incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions. When this happens, your physicians will contact your closest family for help.

Many states require that living will specify who has the authority to make decisions for you, so they are essential. Terminating life support without a living will is expensive and heartbreaking, as a court order can be necessary. Physicians may also determine which family member’s viewpoint should take precedence.

 

A Living Will’s Importance

A living will provide the principal’s health care proxy with the ability to make decisions based on the principal’s preferences in the event of a medical crisis or other end-of-life situation.

If you cannot advocate for yourself, your proxy can use the living will to understand your wishes and advocate. A living will is helpful if the proxy is under pressure from other family members or individuals who may think you have a different view of care.”

Emergency medical personnel also receive clear instructions from living wills. In addition to providing a sense of direction, living wills can provide relief for providers and loved ones when making these decisions for their patients and loved ones.

 

FAQs

Should minor children have living wills?

When a minor is under the care of a parent or legal guardian, they automatically become the healthcare proxy for the child. However, this changes when the child turns 18. In those situations, a living will prove helpful, especially if your child lives away or you cannot be readily available in an emergency.

 

What should I do if I move from one state to another?

The laws and procedures about living wills and other documents, such as advanced directives, vary depending on where you live. If you relocate, you may need to amend your current living will. If you move to another state, you may have to fill out a different, state-approved form.

Living wills should also be separate for each location if you travel or live in several states.

 

Bottom Line

Generally, living will communicate your preferences about medical treatment in the event of incapacitation. There are many benefits to having a living will, regardless of age.

Hedy Ghavidel

HEDY GHAVIDEL Managing Attorney  Roseville Office  1-866-471-6981  info@attorneysre.com Bio...

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