How Living Wills Work



You probably have been asked at some point if you had a healthcare or advance directive at a medical facility. Though the healthcare or advance directive could be comprised of several forms instead of one, the terms are alternate names for a living will. This type of will is not for planning your estate. Instead, a living will is a document that ensures that your wishes for your end of life care are made clear if you are not able to answer for yourself.

How Living Wills Work

There are advance directive forms available at doctor’s offices and hospitals in most states. Your instructions or directives make sure that you receive the exact amount and type of medical intervention that you want when you are in a terminal situation and you aren’t able to communicate. For example, you may want only palliative or comfort care, but you do not want to have extraordinary measures like CPR administered. Having a living will can also take the burden off of your family so that they don’t have to decide whether or not you remain on life support.

In order for the living will to be valid, you must follow your state’s laws regarding witnesses and notarization. Based on your wishes, you can make the document effective as of the signing or only if you cannot make decisions for yourself. You may revoke your living will at any time, or you may change your instructions with a new one. However, even if you choose to make yours effective upon signing, the physicians will communicate with you to make sure your preferences are followed for as long as you can communicate.

What Should Be Included

The kindest thing you can do for your family is to state your wishes ahead of time clearly. Some of the things you want to include are:

  • Do you want to be put on a respirator if you cannot breathe on your own?
  • Do you want a feeding tube if you cannot eat?
  • Do you want pain management drugs or procedures? If so, what kind?
  • Do you want a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order or a DNI (Do Not Intubate) order in place?
  • Do you want to be an organ donor?

If you have questions about a living will and what should be included, or how to plan for the end of your life, contact a licensed estate planning lawyer. They can guide you through the decisions that need to be made to protect your family.