How Living Wills Work

A living will, sometimes called an advance directive, is not a will at all. A living will is a legal document that allows people to record their wishes for end of life medical care. A living will has nothing to do with property, it is a document that directs a person’s loved ones on what to do when they are making end-of-life medical decisions when the patient cannot speak for themselves. After death a living will has no power and it is completely useless.

When you are working on planning your estate or you are helping someone else plan their estate a living will is an important part of that. In fact, it is best to create your living will when you are in good mental and physical health. A living will gives the medical team instructions on what kind of life saving measure you do or don’t want at the end of your life. Without it your family members and physicians are left guessing.

If you can’t express your wishes when your life is hanging in the balance someone else has to make those decisions for you. They will have to decide if you want life support or if you don’t want life support. These decisions are very personal and nobody should be left to make them for somebody else. They can also cause a lot of tension between people when they have to make decisions collectively.

Most states have forms for advance directives that allow residents to be as detailed or as vague as they like. For instances, it is common for people to request “palliative care” that means they want care to make them more comfortable like decreasing pain and suffering. It is also common for people to request that “extraordinary measures” like CPR not be performed in certain circumstances.

In order to be valid a living will must meet the guidelines for the state it is drafted in. This may mean that the document needs to be witnessed or notarized. You can revoke a living will at any time, for any reason. A living will takes effect as soon as it is signed. It only comes into play when a person cannot communicate his or her own wishes regarding treatment. Even if a living will is effective, doctors will rely on verbal communication with the patient as long as it is possible.

When a person dies their living will is no longer valid accept in one instance. The person who is granted decision making capabilities by the power of attorney must give health care agents the power to make decisions about organ donation and autopsy. These decisions must be made shortly after a person dies, so this power is short lived.