A Living Will: Everything You Need to Know
A Living Will is an outline of your preferences for the times when you are still alive, but close to death due to health reasons.
Thinking about serious accidents, injuries, and death is never fun, but you may want to decide what happens to you in the case of a life event that would make your body unable to keep itself alive on its own. Accidents and illnesses happen and if one happens to you and keep you unable to decide about yourself, a Living Will may solve many arising issues.
What is a Living Will?
Think about a Living Will as a will for the times when you are still alive, but close to death due to health reasons. This may include but is not limited to being in a coma, being terminally ill, have a progressive illness, being unconscious due to an accident, or a similar condition.
The Living Will is a legal document in which you outline your preferences that your doctor and family should follow in such a case, particularly in terms of life-support treatments. It may include what you want or don’t want near or at the end of your life. It serves your doctors as a guide about what you want or don’t want to be done to your body while unconscious and your family will know what your wishes are when you may be nearing death. Moreover, you’ll know that they know how you want to be treated in those moments.
When does it go into effect?
The Living Will comes into effect when your doctor decides that you are unconscious and unable to make decisions for yourself. In some states, one doctor is enough, while in others at least two doctors have to confirm that you are unable to answer questions about your near-death preferences.
How to Make a Living Will
Making a Living Will is rather simple as long as you meet your state’s requirements. The requirements vary from state to state, so before making one, ensure to learn what your state’s laws require. In most cases, filling your state’s Living Will form and signing from you and a witness is enough. However, some states require a notary as well.
If you spend a lot of time in a state other than your state, you have to take into account whether the two states recognize the Living Wills from one another. Some states do, but others don’t. If you spend part of your time in one state but spend the summers in another state, you’ll want to ensure that your Living Will is recognized by both states.
Also, it is important to note that only you can create your own Living Will. Another person cannot do it on your behalf.
Finally, if you have changed your mind about something and you want to make any changes, you are free to do so. The laws do not set limitations on the number of changes you could do.
Will My Doctor and My Family Comply with My Will?
The answer to this question depends on your state’s law. In general, if it is made according to your state’s law and it meets all the requirements, it is likely to be legally binding. However, you have to keep in mind that doctors are bound by medicine standards in their work, therefore if your wishes do not align with such standards, they may risk violating the laws. In that case, they won’t be obliged to follow the preferences as set out in your Living Will.
But in most cases, doctors will comply with your will. To ensure it, it is best to talk to your doctor right after making one and explain to them why your wishes are important to you. Or even better, talk to them before making the living will to ensure that you have one that is aligned to both your wishes and the applicable medical standards.