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What Are Living Wills?

Living wills are legal documents that are made in anticipation of future cases of medical incapacitation or disability. They contain various instructions regarding medical treatments for different conditions or procedures. They are often written in advance, in order to prevent the person from being in a situation where they can’t take legal action due to incapacitation. The living will often names a person who will represent the creator of the living will and make decisions on their behalf.

What Types of Instructions do Living Wills Contain?

Living wills often contain instructions that focus on medical treatment. As a result, they are sometimes referred to as "medical directives," since they "direct" the other person regarding medical treatment. The representative has a duty to obey the medical directive and the instructions it contains. These instructions often address:

  • Issues regarding life support and resuscitation
  • Organ donation
  • Medicines and injections
  • Emergency surgeries
  • What to do if the person becomes unconscious for prolonged periods of time

Some persons may have very specific desires when it comes to medical treatment. Many of these preferences often have to do with cultural, religious, or personal decisions. Thus, it’s important to name a representative who is familiar with the desires and preferences of the person they are representing.

What if I Have a Dispute Involving a Living Will?

Living wills should contain instructions that are clear and straight-forward, in order to avoid potential conflicts in the future. However, it can sometimes happen that a legal dispute arises over a living will. For instance, there may be some dispute as to the meaning of a particular word or phrase in the document. Or, medical technology may have changed from the time the living will was created.

If a legal dispute arises, it may be necessary to file a claim with the court in order to have the document reviewed. The court may conduct analysis to determine what the appropriate remedy should be, such as a specific interpretation of the will document.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Living Will Document?

Living wills can sometimes be complex, and need to be very clear in their instructions. It may be necessary for you to hire an estate lawyer for help making a living will, or editing/reviewing an existing one. Your attorney can provide legal advice and guidance, and can represent you in court if you need to make an appearance.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 06-17-2018 10:53 PM PDT

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