What Is a Living Will?
A living will, also called a "directive to physician," is a legal document that identifies your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical care. In this document, you can identify, very specifically, what medical treatments and care you do and do not want. A common issue dealt with in a living will is whether you want to be kept on life support. Many clients ask us if having a living will is important or necessary. If you have strong opinions on how you want to be cared for should you become incapacitated, you should consider establishing a living will or directive to physician.
How Is a Living Will Is Different from a Last Will & Testament?
While your living will is focused on your wishes before you pass away, your last will and testament deals with your wishes after your death. For example, in your last will and testament, you can name an executor of your estate, identify who you want to leave specific belongings to, and provide instructions regarding important financial matters.
Do I Need a Medical Power of Attorney if I Have a Living Will?
While your living will covers important matters like life-sustaining medical treatments, the medical power of attorney names a "healthcare proxy" to make important medical care decisions for you if you are incapacitated. If you do not have a medical power of attorney and the unexpected happens, the courts will designate one for you, and they may not select the person you want.
Another important end-of-life legal document is a durable power of attorney. This document designates what should be done with your financial concerns if you are incapacitated and cannot make your own decisions. Like the medical power of attorney, it is a separate document from your living will.
Keep reading to learn more about how a living will may benefit you.
Provide Your Family with Answers
If you become terminally ill or suffer a serious injury, you may not be able to directly communicate with your loved ones how you want your care handled. A living will empowers you to provide your family and loved ones with clear answers if they are called upon to make decisions regarding your care. For example, if you wish to receive life-sustaining treatment, you can include this in your living will. A directive to physician also prevents doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers from administering treatment that you do not want.
Prevent Conflict Between Family Members
When a family member is in a position where they must make important decisions for an incapacitated loved one, conflict can arise. For example, it is not uncommon for family members to fight whether to take a loved one off life support. While the ultimate decision may rest with one individual, other family members may have differing opinions on what should be done. This can start a serious conflict among your family, and in some cases, may even end up in court. If you have an established living will, your family will not have to fight over what to do. Instead, they can focus on getting you the specific care you requested.
Get Peace of Mind Knowing Your Wishes Will Followed
In addition to providing your relatives with clear instructions and reducing conflict, a living will can also give you personal peace of mind. We cannot predict the future, and thinking about our mortality and the end of our life causes many people significant anxiety. However, with a living will, you have a plan in place. Though you may not know what the future holds, you do know how you will be taken care of, and you know that your family, loved ones, and healthcare providers will adhere to your wishes.
To get started with a living will, reach out to our law firm for guidance.