You should create a living will if you want your family and medical providers to know how to handle your medical care if you can’t speak for yourself.
A living will is a legal document that outlines your preferences regarding the type of medical treatment you want if you can’t make your own decisions. The instructions you provide should direct your family members and doctors when specific circumstances arise, such as:
- Terminal illness
- Traumatic injury
- Cognitive disease
With a living will, you can indicate your wishes for end-of-life care and whether you want your physicians to use extraordinary measures to keep you alive. You can also outline your decisions regarding medication, pain management, and additional medical preferences.
The Importance of a Living Will
A living will gives you peace of mind knowing you will receive the medical treatment you choose if something happens and you can’t inform anyone of your wishes. It can also relieve any burden your family would have had if they were forced to make challenging decisions on your behalf. If you clearly state what you want in your living will, it could prevent your family members from arguing over how to handle your medical care.
Who Can Create a Living Will?
Anyone at least 18 years old and of sound mind can set up a living will. Sound mind means you understand your decisions regarding the terms of the living will you’re creating.
Most people think older adults and individuals with a terminal illness are the only ones who can benefit from a living will. However, a valid living will can also help when unexpected scenarios arise, such as a fatal disease or car crash resulting in a coma.
When a Living Will Becomes Effective
A living will is only effective while you’re alive and unable to make sound decisions. Once a doctor deems you incompetent, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to communicate how you want your medical treatment to be handled, your living will can go into effect.
Typically, your medical provider will evaluate your condition to determine whether you no longer have the ability to understand your available treatment options and communicate your wishes.
If you pass away, your living will isn’t effective or enforceable anymore.
Difference Between a Living Will and Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is much different than a living will. The main difference is that a last will and testament outlines how you want your estate handled when you die. A living will directs people to make health care decisions under specific circumstances when you can’t speak for yourself.
Decisions You Should Include in Your Living Will
If you decide you want to create a living will, you should hire an estate planning attorney and consider your options regarding end-of-life care. The most common scenarios people include in their living wills are:
If you’re no longer able to eat on your own, you could receive the fluids and nutrients you need intravenously or through a tube in your stomach. Specific points you should address include:
- Whether you want a feeding tube
- When you want to be connected to a feeding tube
- The length of time you should be fed through a feeding tube
Mechanical ventilation occurs when a person can’t breathe on their own. If you want to include these instructions in your living will, you should specify certain information, such as:
- Whether you want mechanical ventilation
- The circumstances that should arise to be placed on a ventilator
- How long you want to be on a ventilator
You can choose whether you want your doctors to use specific medications in different situations. For example, if you develop a serious infection, you can decide whether you want antibiotics administered.
You might have a strong opinion regarding controlled substances and would rather avoid strong painkillers and similar drugs.
A living will can include a section on donations. If you want to donate your organs to someone in need, you should specify that in the document. You could also donate your body to science.
If your kidneys don’t function properly anymore, you can indicate whether you want to go on dialysis in your living will. Dialysis performs multiple functions, such as:
- Assisting in controlling blood pressure
- Removing waste, extra water, and salt from the body to prevent them from building up
- Maintaining safe levels of certain chemicals in the blood, such as sodium and potassium
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today
If you want to create a living will, you should contact an estate planning attorney from Staubus and Randall today. We can advise you about the various elements of a living will to ensure you address all the necessary scenarios, so your family knows what to do if you can’t make your own decisions anymore. Don’t leave anything to chance. Call 214-691-3411 today.