A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive or healthcare declaration, is a legal document that allows individuals to outline their preferences for medical treatment in the event they become unable to communicate or make decisions about their own healthcare due to a severe illness or injury.
A living will empowers individuals to have a voice in their medical treatment and relieves loved ones of the burden of making difficult decisions on their behalf.
Key things to keep in mind about living wills
These are a few important details related to living wills that you’ll want to keep in mind when estate planning:
- Purpose and Importance: A living will serves as a guide for healthcare providers and loved ones when making medical decisions on behalf of an individual who is incapacitated or unable to express their wishes. It ensures that a person’s healthcare preferences are respected, even if they can no longer communicate them.
- Treatment Preferences: A living will typically addresses specific medical treatments or interventions, such as life-sustaining measures, resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, artificial nutrition and hydration, pain management and organ donation. It allows individuals to specify whether they want these treatments administered, withheld or withdrawn under certain circumstances.
- Personal Values and Beliefs: A living will may also include instructions regarding religious or spiritual beliefs, personal values and end-of-life care preferences. It allows individuals to express their desires for comfort, dignity and quality of life during their medical treatment.
- Legal Validity: To better ensure the legal validity of a living will, it must comply with the requirements of the state in which it is drafted. Generally, it requires the individual to be of sound mind and over the legal age of consent. It often needs to be witnessed or notarized.
- Regular Review and Updates: It is essential to review and update a living will periodically, especially when there are significant changes in one’s health, personal circumstances or treatment preferences. Regular communication with healthcare providers and loved ones is crucial to ensure the living will accurately reflects an individual’s current wishes.
Seeking legal guidance can help to ensure that this document both meets all legal requirements and accurately reflects one’s preferences.