What would happen if you were unable to make your own medical decisions? Who would decide what kind of care you would receive? How would they know what you would want? These are some of the questions that a living will can help you answer.
A living will is a legal document that allows you to express your preferences for medical treatment in certain situations, such as terminal illness, permanent unconsciousness, or severe dementia, as well as help you avoid unwanted interventions, protect your dignity, and relieve your loved ones of the burden of making difficult choices for you.
In this article, we will explain why having a living will is important, what it should include, how to create and update it, and how to communicate your wishes to your family and health care providers.
Why You Need a Living Will
A living will can give you peace of mind and control over your own health care. Here are some of the reasons why you should have one:
- Ensure your wishes are respected and followed: A living will can help you avoid unnecessary or unwanted procedures that may prolong your suffering or reduce your comfort, as well as help you receive palliative care that addresses your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
- Protect your autonomy and dignity: Even if you lose the ability to communicate entirely, a living will help you preserve your right to make your own decisions, as well as keep you from undergoing treatments that may conflict with your values or beliefs.
- You can reduce conflict and stress for your loved ones: If you’re incapacitated, disagreements can arise between your family and friends regarding your wishes. A living will can help you prevent disputes and spare those you love from the guilt or regret of making decisions that may not reflect your true desires.
What Your Living Will Should Include
A living will should include the following information:
- Your personal information, such as your name, date of birth, address, and phone number.
- Your health care agent or proxy, who is the person you appoint to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself –someone who knows you well, understands your wishes, and is willing and able to act on your behalf.
- Your medical conditions and preferences, which are the specific situations and treatments that you want to address in your living will. You should consider various scenarios, such as terminal illness, permanent unconsciousness, irreversible brain damage, or severe dementia.
- Your organ donation wishes, which are whether you want to donate your organs and tissues after your death, as well as specifying what to donate and for what purposes (such as transplantation, research, or education).
Steps to Create and Update Your Living Will
Find an Attorney you can trust
You will likely find websites where you can create a DIY will but, unfortunately, most of these don’t fully protect your family as they are often generic and not taking your family’s specific circumstances to consideration. Instead, find a trustworthy law firm that gets to know you, your family and your estate, enabling them to create a plan that ensures that your family is safe when they need it most.
Store and share it
You should keep a copy of your living will in a safe and accessible place, such as a fireproof box, a safe deposit box, or an online storage service. You should also give copies to your health care agent, your alternate agent, your family members, your friends, and your doctors. You should also carry a card or a bracelet that indicates that you have a living will and where it can be found.
Review and update it
Your living will should be reviewed periodically. In the case of a life situation change, or perhaps a change in state law, your previous plan could now become outdated, which could cause problems in the future. Once reviewed, the updated plan should be shared with all parties with access to your living will.
Where There Is A Will, There Is Peace of Mind
A living will is not only a document; it’s also a conversation. It’s a conversation that reflects who you are, what you value, and how you want to live, as well as a conversation that can make a difference in the quality of your life and death.
Let’s start that conversation. Truest Law is a firm dedicated to protecting the families we serve and prioritizing our client’s best interests – contact us today!