A living will is a specialized legal instrument that specifies instructions for medical care in the event that the person is hurt, disabled, or otherwise unable to make decisions for themselves in the future.
Before the symptoms or incapacity actually arise, the instructions are delivered “in advance.” The document essentially forecasts potential future events. Living wills are therefore frequently referred to as “advanced directives” or “medical directives.”
How Do I Write a Living Will?
State-specific requirements for creating a legitimate living will vary, but generally speaking, your assertions and instructions must be written and signed by you. The living will must typically be signed in the presence of witnesses, and some states even mandate that the document be notarized.
You must be of sound mind and have achieved the age of majority, generally 18 years old, to make a living will.
What Are Included in Living Wills?
A person’s living will specifies who will act as their legal “go-to” person to make decisions on their behalf, as well as details on key issues such as whether to revive someone who is unconscious or receiving life support, whether to donate their organs, and whether to donate their body. Living wills should be thorough and give specific directions (meaning they should cover a broad spectrum of possible situations).
Your wishes for medical treatment at the end of life should be expressly stated in your living will.
The following are some topics that individuals frequently discuss for a living:
- Resuscitation: Make it clear if and when you would prefer to be revived using CPR or a machine that shocks the heart with electricity.
- Indicate whether you would prefer to be kept alive with a feeding tube or a ventilator during life support: Include the length of time and the conditions of your request for live support if you are interested in receiving it. If you’re comatose or in a vegetative state, your wishes can be different.
- Determine the interventions you would like to be utilized in palliative care to keep you comfortable and manage pain (while still abiding by your other treatment wishes, of course): This can entail receiving painkillers, avoiding invasive testing or treatments, or even being permitted to pass away at home.
- Clarify whether you wish to have any remaining viable organs removed so they can be donated to someone in need when it comes to organ and tissue donations: Additionally, some people elect to designate certain organs, such as their eyes or skin, they do not want to donate.
- Donating your body for research purposes: Your living will should also state whether you want to donate your body to science.
As is clear from the information above, a living trust must include specific instructions on the testator’s medical preferences because they include sensitive issues that may be challenging for someone other than the testator themself to decide.
Finally, if a person’s decisions are influenced by certain cultural, religious, or personal preferences, they should include explicit instructions in their living will. Such desires shall not be expressed by any person other than the testator. A testator must designate someone who is knowledgeable about and willing to carry out their wishes and goals.
A Living Will Becomes Effective at What Point?
Typically, a living will start acting according to the detailed instructions stated in the agreements. The individual might say something like, “These directions should be followed in the event of incapacitation or major handicap,” or something else along those lines. Alternatively, the individual may select a certain day when the living will become active (which may be a much later date, when the person is already retired and well advanced in age).
The majority of living will documents, however, only become “triggered” or active in the case of a critical, life-threatening, or incapacitating condition. Additionally, living wills can be changed or updated as new circumstances emerge throughout the course of the person’s life (for instance, if they experience a medical condition later on in life).
Of course, a livelihood won’t do anything if no one knows about it. Make sure your family and doctor are aware that you have a living will, and that they have a copy or know where to find one.
Finally, living wills can be changed up until the moment they go into effect. You are free to update the documents as you see fit, but you must follow the same procedures as when you first formed the living will (i.e., signatures, witnesses, etc.).
It’s also crucial to remember that a living will is typically not seen as genuine if the person who made it happens to be pregnant when they become incapable of making decisions. There can be more living will exclusions and elements to take into account. If you have any issues concerning your living will, speak with an attorney. These may vary depending on your location’s individual state or municipal regulations.
A Living Will May Be Challenged
To avoid future disagreements, living wills must include both plain and unambiguous directions. There are, however, some circumstances in which it might not be possible to prevent a dispute involving a living will document. For instance, similar to conventional wills and legal contracts, a disagreement over the interpretation of a certain term or phrase used in the document could conceivably arise.
If medical or technological advances have occurred after the living will was first written and have an impact on its current contents, the living will may also raise legal issues. Although this issue could be resolved by revising the current living will, it will be more difficult to make those changes if the person who created the living will is currently incapacitated.
Regardless of the reasons, the parties involved in a living will dispute can discover that filing a claim with the probate court is the only way to end the problem. By doing this, a court will have a chance to evaluate the document and determine the appropriate remedy to resolve the relevant disagreement.
In certain situations, a court may also be asked to get involved if the parties need assistance deciphering the living will’s instructions or determining the author’s intentions.
In light of this, it could be appropriate for a person to hire a lawyer while creating a living will. A living will’s terms can be made clear and legally enforceable by hiring an attorney to prepare the instrument.
The requirements for what should occur in the event of a legal dispute regarding the instructions in the living will include:
- The name of the following beneficiary or beneficiaries in the event the current designated health care proxy becomes incapacitated;
- The name of the next beneficiary or beneficiaries; and/or
- How to proceed in the event that the designated representative violates a living will or disregards the wishes stated in it.
Last but not least, a lawyer will be able to clearly describe and incorporate the appropriate information in specifying the scope of a proxy’s full authority because a living will also enable a designated health care proxy to make legal choices on behalf of the living will’s creator. This might decrease the likelihood of a disagreement in the future because it will be more difficult to challenge a proxy’s behavior if their instructions are clearly stated in the document.
Do I Need an Attorney?
It can be difficult to comprehend how to create a living. Consulting an attorney may be important when it comes to writing, establishing, and constructing a living will. To ensure that your living will complies with state law, you might need to contact a will lawyer. Additionally, your local attorney can assist you if there are any legal difficulties with the living will paperwork.