Making end-of-life medical decisions for a dying loved one can be some of the most difficult choices that a person will make, and can be even more challenging when his or her loved one’s wishes are not known. Often we are torn between a desire to keep our spouse, parent, family member, or friend with us as long as possible, and the consideration of the quality of his or her remaining time. However, you can ease the burden of end-of-life medical questions and concerns by creating a living will that clearly expresses your wishes to your loved ones and medical professionals in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions about medical care and death.
What is a Living Will?
A living will, or advanced directive, is a legal document that communicates to medical professionals your wishes regarding end-of-life medical care, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), artificial nutrition (feeding tubes), ventilation, and other medical interventions if you are unable to communicate your preferences yourself. A patient’s preferences will override the living will as long as he or she can communicate, and a living will may be revoked by the patient at any time.
How is a Durable Power of Attorney Related to a Living Will?
Living wills often work in conjunction with a durable power of attorney (DPOA) specified for healthcare. A DPOA for healthcare is a legal document that designates an individual with the authority to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment if you are unable to do so. The person that you select will be known as the “agent” or “healthcare proxy.”
Does a Living Will Have Any Influence After Death?
Unlike a “last will and testament” that takes effect upon a person’s death and communicates how a property is to be divided amongst individuals and organizations (beneficiaries), a living will is limited to medical decisions, and is terminated upon death excluding decisions about organ donation and autopsy. A living will has no influence on a “last will and testament” and has no effect on the division of an estate.
How Do I Obtain a Living Will?
While some people choose to draft their living will using available software, most prefer the expertise of an attorney due to requirements unique to each state, and peace of mind. The attorneys at Finklea Law Firm have professional experience in probate and estate planning, and can assist you in ensuring that your wishes regarding your health care and estate are honored.
With an established living will, rest easy knowing that your loved ones will not struggle with the burden of end-of-life medical decisions about your care should you ever be unable to do so.