Do I Need A Living Will?

Daren Brown
By Daren Brown | March 21, 2019
Do I Need A Living Will
People often underestimate the importance of a living will. The underestimation stems from a lack of understanding about how the directives set forth in this document are applied and why that application is vital to their end-of-life health.

In an effort to shed some light on this topic, we will explain the basic parameters of this process and when and how the document is used.

What Is A Living Will?

The first misconception about a living will is that it resembles a last will and testament or a living trust. Neither comparison is apt. Although a living will is part of estate planning law; it only outlines the specifics of certain end-of-life decisions.

These decisions include, which medical treatments you wish to receive and not receive, regarding:
  • Cardiac resuscitation
  • Mechanical resuscitation
  • Artificial nutrition
  • Hydration
  • DNR

Your express wishes will only be followed when you are too ill or too incapacitated to make your own medical decisions; usually as a result of a terminal illness or persistent vegetative state.

Up until the point that you are deemed medically incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions by a doctor, you can express your wishes independently or through your power of attorney. These modes of expression will override the directives in your living will for as long as possible.

What Is Power Of Attorney?

Speaking of power of attorney; that is the second principle decision involved in a living will.

There are instances where you may lose the ability and capacity to express your wishes verbally, but you’re not considered terminal. In these instances, you’ll need to designate someone to stand in and make your medical decisions for you. This person is also referred to as a medical proxy.

Your choice of medical proxy is determined and enforced by the stipulations of your living will. This is a very important decision, as this person will be responsible for making difficult choices about life-prolonging treatment.

Most people automatically elect their spouse as power of attorney, but this may not be the wisest or best decision. Your spouse can be swayed by emotions in end-of-life situations. It is usually better to select a sibling or friend as your proxy.

A living will does not stand in the way of life-sustaining treatment. It is only used when a person’s medical outlook is deemed hopeless.

How Do I Make A Living Will?

Making life-and-death decisions is not an easy task; especially when each state has its own requirements for living wills. Your best course of action is to meet with an estate planning attorney, like Darin Mitchell of Stockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. in Amarillo, Texas. He can help you make necessary determinations about your advance directives.

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photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

Topics: Estate Planning