What is a Living Will and Why Do I Need One?

Posted on November 10, 2022 by shieldsandboris

Even though you are approaching later years in life, you are likely still near as spry, capable, and present as you were in your youth. You have worked your whole life and likely found your place in the world, carving out a private corner of existence that you can call uniquely your own. In all likelihood, your eventual passing is not your primary concern. However, there may come a time when your medical providers need to make tough decisions about how to preserve your life. At such a time, your quality of life may hang in the balance. Without a written document of your desire and will laid out explicitly with regard to what medical interventions you deem appropriate, your child or closest loved one will likely have to make heavy decisions. This can be particularly relevant in the case of dementia.

The process of making medical decisions for someone else can cause great degrees of stress and turmoil for the person saddled with that responsibility. Doubt about whether or not they made the right decision may haunt them, possibly for the rest of their lives.

While some people do manage to come out of comas after extensive medical care and time, it is also possible for a person to sit in a vegetative state with no hope of regaining their conscious faculties. Ultimately, it is best for you yourself to have the final say on what medical interventions are used to preserve your life and for how long. The vehicle used to record and enforce that decision is called a living will.

What Can a Living Will Do?

The purpose of a living will is to indicate in written form which life sustaining medical approaches you would like to authorize and for how long. You can indicate in whichever manner that you would like and as explicitly as you can muster. Living wills, which can also be referred to as advanced directives, do not need to follow any specific formatting and do not need to be submitted to court. They can be given to your spouses, doctor, and attorney. The intention is for a living will to be distributed as widely as possible to make sure that your medical professionals know what to do in the case of your being unconscious or otherwise indisposed.

Health care professionals are obligated to follow the instructions in a living will unless they cannot in good conscience comply with them. In the case that they cannot in good conscience comply, they are obligated to do everything in their power to initiate transfer to a professional who can comply with the instructions in the living will. Only in the event that transfer is impossible could a healthcare professional be released from legal bond to follow the living will. This is a rare eventuality and living wills are generally followed.

Who Can Make a Living Will?

Nearly anyone can make a living will. The requirements to submit a valid living will are not difficult to satisfy. The living will writer must merely be 18 years of age or older and have two witnesses attend the writing of the will. It is not a requirement that the will be notarized but it is advisable. Even if the writer of a living will is not 18 years of age, a will can still be written if the principal is an emancipated minor. As stated above, the requirements for making a living will are designed to allow nearly anyone to write one. If you would like to have control over your end-stage medical care, you should contact an attorney to help you write one and keep records today.

Can I Change My Will?

Yes, you can change your will at any time. Living wills are easily reversible because you may change your mind about your end of life medical care for a variety of reasons. In order to revise your living will, you have a few options. You can issue an amendment to your will called a codicil. A codicil is simply an addition to your will that may change some of its provisions. When your will is read, it will be read with any codicils and the amendments will overwrite what was previously written.

You may also pen an entirely new will. In this case, you may revoke the old will verbally and it will be considered null and void. You can revoke your living will at any point regardless of your mental or physical capacity.

What Important Aspects Should I Include in My Living Will?

Your living will can follow whatever format that you prefer and include whatever you wish to include in it. However, there is a popular format for a living will which is designed to help you write a living will that covers everything you need to cover. This format is called the “five wishes”. The five wishes involve five topic areas. The areas are as follows:

The person I want to make care decisions for me when I cannot The kind of medical treatment I want or don’t want How comfortable I want to be How I want people to treat me What I want my loved ones to know

The topic areas are crafted to make it easy for a principal to comprehensively cover all aspects of their end-stage medical care and treatment and to designate power of attorney to the correct person. There is no obligation to follow the “five wishes” format, but it may be prudent to look over the sample document to make sure nothing has been missed in your living will.

Speak With a Lawyer Today

As you undergo the various steps of estate planning, you should work to make sure that you have a valid living will. Consult an experienced lawyer today to protect yourself from these forces outside of your control. The law offices of Shields & Boris specialize in providing comprehensive services in all aspects of the estate planning process. Lawyers at Shields & Boris pride themselves on serving the whole person and improving all aspects of a client’s life. Our lawyers can provide help with asset protection and provide general guidance on many little discussed aspects of estate planning. We serve all throughout the Pittsburgh area. Contact the law offices of Shields & Boris today or call (724) 302-3718 to speak directly with a lawyer.

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