What is a Living Will?
The legal instrument that allows people to specify their intentions for end-of-life medical treatment is known as a “living will,” “health care directive,” or “advance directive.”
Despite its name, a living will is nothing like the wills that individuals use to bequeath property after they die. A living will, also known as a directive to physicians or advance directive, is a legal instrument that allows people to express their preferences for end-of-life medical treatment if they cannot convey their choices. After death, it loses its potency.
Don’t forget about a living will if you’re assisting someone with their estate planning (or preparing your own). If a person cannot voice their preferences, it can provide essential direction to family members and healthcare providers.
Family members and physicians are forced to infer what a very ill person would desire in terms of care without a document articulating their preferences. They may become embroiled in bitter arguments that occasionally reach the courtroom.
How Do Living Wills Work?
Advance directive forms are available in many states, allowing citizens to express their preferences in as much or as little detail as they like. For example, it’s usual to specify that “palliative care” be provided at all times but that some “extraordinary measures,” such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), be avoided in specific situations.
A living will fulfill state criteria for notarization and witnesses to be valid. At any point, a living will can be revoked.
The document might take effect immediately once it is signed, or it can take effect only when judged that the individual can no longer communicate their treatment preferences. Even if it takes effect immediately, doctors will, for the foreseeable future, rely on personal dialogue rather than a paper.
How is a Living Will Used?
Keep these facts in mind while considering how to utilize a living will.
- If you cannot communicate or make decisions for yourself, your living will is utilized. Before your living will may take effect, one or more doctors must certify that you cannot communicate or make decisions for yourself.
- You can accept or decline any therapy if you feel healthier and can speak for yourself again. It makes no difference what you wrote in your living will.
- In some instances, your right to refuse treatment may be limited. You may need to include that you do not want artificial hydration or nourishment in your living will, such as being fed through a tube.
What Are the Steps to Make a Living Will?
Decide Your Preferred Treatment Options
You must first pick which medical options to include in your living will and how you feel about each one. Your living will can have your wishes in the following areas:
- Life-sustaining treatments (like chemotherapy, medication, and surgery)
- Life support (like feeding tubes, artificial respiration, and kidney dialysis)
- End-of-life wishes (like organ donation or religious rituals)
To discover how you feel about some of these topics, ask yourself the following questions:
- If you were ill, do you want your doctors to do everything to keep you alive? Or are there situations where you’d prefer a natural death?
- Are you willing to try risky or expensive medical procedures?
- Would you ever want to be on life support?
- What do you consider a good quality of life?
It’s a good idea to talk to your loved ones about these difficulties. Having these discussions while you’re well might relieve stress and simplify future decisions.
Consider Making a Medical Power of Attorney to Accompany Your Living Will
You can make a living will and a medical power of attorney (POA) simultaneously. You name a person — frequently referred to as your healthcare agent or proxy — to make choices for you if you are unable to.
They’ll be your medical team’s point of contact and have the authority to make choices regarding anything not covered in your living will.
Get a Living Will Form Specific to the State Where You Live
You have several options when it comes to obtaining a living will:
- Use a Living Will Form Provided by Your State. Although most states give free blank living will forms, these templates aren’t always straightforward to customize to your specific needs.
- Use an Online Living Will Template. An online living will form available from various firms. After entering your information, you may be required to pay a charge to get your papers.
- Use Free Online Software. You may make a living will and a medical POA using a free service provider.
Fill Out, Sign, and Notarize Your Living Will
Your living will should be tangible, which means it should be printed and kept on hand. Your living will should be signed, witnessed, and notarized as required by your state’s regulations. Two people will witness a living in most jurisdictions, and some states additionally need a notary’s seal.
Store Your Living Will in a Safe Place and Update It as Your Preferences Change
Once you’ve finished your living will, keep it in a secure location with your other estate planning papers, such as a house safe. A copy should also be given to your healthcare agent (if one exists), your doctor, and your local hospital.
Your healthcare choices are likely to alter as you get older and your life changes. That’s why it’s a good idea to check in on your living will now and then to make sure it’s up to date with your current intentions.
Why Should You Have a Living Will (Health Care Directive)?
A living will, also known as a health care directive or medical directive is a legal document. It specifies what activities the medical personnel should and should not take on your behalf, including:
- Heroic Measures. If your heart stopped, would you want to be resuscitated?
- Life Support. If you lost brain function or the ability to breathe, would you like to be kept alive?
- End-of-Life Care. Do you want life-extending treatment? Pain medications? Religious rites?
Medical directives, such as a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, must be followed by doctors. Physicians may be forced to act against your preferences if you don’t have a living will, and family members may be helpless to accomplish what you desire.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Living Will?
Even though a living will do not deal with a person’s assets, it is an essential part of the estate-planning process, which might involve preparing for incapacity or end-of-life care.
One of the most powerful advantages of a living will is the gift of peace of mind it may deliver to a patient’s family at a difficult time. If family members are unaware of their loved one’s particular medical desires, they will have to make an educated estimate as to what they would like.
Having a living will in place considerably lessens squabbling and ambiguity among family members who believe they know best what their loved one wants.
Advance directives and living will bring families together rather than put them against one another during difficult and stressful periods.
Our experienced will attorney will be able to assist you in drafting a living will that conveys your desires clearly, avoiding any potential family disagreement.
What Are the Several Types of a Living Will?
A living will is a legal instrument known as “advance directives.” The state of Washington recognizes numerous distinct forms of advance directives. The following are two essential advance directives:
Health Care Directives
This is the formal name for what is commonly referred to as a “living will.” This document specifies the degree of care you desire in the case of a catastrophic disability—when you’re on the verge of death or are rendered permanently unconscious, as assessed by physicians.
Durable Powers of Attorney
This document allows you to name a particular individual to make healthcare choices on your behalf and guarantees that your care instructions are fulfilled.
When you include this document in your estate plan, you may ensure that your healthcare team and family will have access to a complete end-of-life plan.
What Goes in a Living Will?
When drafting a living will think about both long-term and short-term concerns that are important to you. It’s time to think about what constitutes a “meaningful quality of life” if you become so crippled that you can’t convey your desires.
Some of the problems individuals consider are:
A ventilator can help you if you can no longer breathe independently.
Dialysis filters your blood to eliminate waste and reduce fluid accumulation if your kidneys fail.
Tube Feeding and Hydration
When you can’t chew or swallow, these choices might take the role of eating and drinking. You can be fed either intravenously or via stomach tubes.
Antibiotics and Antiviral Medications
At the end of their lives, some people prefer not to treat infections with medicines actively.
Palliative Care Options
Consider pain management and other factors related to the quality of life. You may want to die at home rather than in a hospital, and you may or may not want invasive or aggressive treatments for any subsequent diseases.
When is a Living Will in Effect?
Though a living will take effect as soon as it is made, physicians will not utilize it until you lose the ability to make your own health care decisions. It is revocable at any moment.
As long as the doctor is able, they will attempt to speak with the patient. If the patient’s expressed wishes contradict or conflict with a living will, the patient’s expressed wishes always take precedence.
Except in circumstances when it extends momentarily to carry out the deceased’s intentions about organ donation, the authority of a living will expires when the patient dies.
Your Knowledgeable Counsel for Sensitive Matters
Although there is no need for you to use an attorney to draft a living will, there are some legal guidelines to follow. According to the Washington State Attorney General, a living will must be written and dated by you and two witnesses.
Hiring our reputable living will attorney might be advantageous. When it’s time to write your living will, the Jones Legacy Law has years of professional experience assisting families in ensuring that their ultimate desires are honored and that their loved ones are cared for through a sound estate plan.
To schedule a private consultation in our Tacoma office, call us or use the contact option on this page.