Living Will Definition

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What is the Definition of a Living Will?

A living will can be defined as a specific document that contains instructions for medical treatment if the person becomes injured, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to function in the future. The instructions are given in "advance," before the conditions or disability actually occurs. The document basically anticipates what might happen in the future. As a result, living wills are often called "advanced directives" or "medical directives."

What Do Living Wills Contain?

Living wills contain instructions regarding important decisions, such as: whether to revive the person is they are unconscious or on life support; whether to donate their organs; and which person will serve as their legal "go-to" person to make decisions on their behalf. Living wills should contain specific instructions, and should also be comprehensive (meaning they should cover a broad spectrum of possible situations).

When Does a Living Will Become Active?

A living will usually becomes active according to specific instructions that are written in the documents. For instance, the person may state, "These instructions should be followed in the event of incapacitation or serious disability", or other similar language. Or, the person may choose a certain date when the living will becomes active (which may be a much later date, when the person is already retired and well advanced in age).

However, most living will documents are "triggered" or become active in the event of a serious, debilitating or incapacitating condition. Living wills can also be amended or adjusted later on as various issues arise in the course of the person’s life (for instance, if they experience a medical condition later on in life).

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Understanding how to make a living will can be challenging. Hiring a lawyer may be necessary when it comes to drafting, creating, and making a living will. You may need to hire a lawyer for help so that your living will is valid under the laws in your state. Also, your attorney can represent you if there are any legal disputes regarding the living will documents.

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Last Modified: 10-08-2013 02:40 PM PDT

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