The Importance of Having a Living Will?

A living will is also sometimes called a health care directive or an advance directive. Whatever term is used, it is the legal document containing your wishes regarding prolonged medical treatments for patients who are at end of life.

A living will should never be confused with a living trust which has to do with the distribution of a person’s assets in order to avoid probate. The living will is very important to have, as it informs your family of your desires concerning your medical treatment in the event that you are not able to speak for yourself.

It is a very good idea to consult one of the lawyers at Kabb Law to help you prepare your living will. This would also be a good time to consult with your lawyer about updating your will or trust.

In general terms, the living will describes life prolonging treatments and which you do or do not want applied. It only becomes effective if you are incapacitated.  Up until that time, you are the one who will say what treatments you do or do not want.

If, for example, you have a heart attack and are temporarily unconscious, the living will has no effect, and you would be resuscitated.  Again, the living will is only used if your recovery is hopeless.

It is also important to have a health care power of attorney or a health care proxy. This is a separate legal document giving someone else the authority to make decisions regarding your health care, if you are incapacitated, but your health is not so dire that the living will becomes ineffective.

You need to make sure that the doctor knows about the kind of end of life medical treatments you want and can answer any questions you might have. Next, you need to let your family know your decisions.  This type of planning ahead relieves caregivers of the burden of making decisions at a time of crisis or grief.

Once your living will is complete, you need to do the following.

  1. Keep the originals in a safe place.
  2. Give a copy to your doctor.
  3. Give a copy to a family member.
  4. Keep a record of who has the copies of your living will.
  5. Keep a copy with you when you are traveling.

It is important that everybody, not just the elderly have a living will.  Accidents can happen at any age, and it is in your own best interests that there is a living will in existence for you.

For help or questions concerning a living will and/or healthcare power of attorney call Kabb Law at 216-991-KABB (5222).