Living Will

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is commonly mistaken for the ones that allow you to leave property at the time of your death to your loved ones. This is not at all the case. A Living Will is, in fact, a document that allows people to state their wishes for end-of-life medical care in the case that they become unable to communicate their decisions. It has absolutely no power after death. That woud be where a "Will" would come into play. If you are doing your estate planning, or helping out a loved one with their own, it is important to not overlook the asset that having a Living Will is capable of providing. This will allow you to empower your loved ones and health care professionals to know exactly what it is that you are wanting done in specific regards to your health. If you are incapacitated, and unable to give direction to your wishes on your health, having a Living Will is one of the only documents that will provide that specific direction and eliminate the stress on your loved ones to try and figure out what it is that you desire in terms of treatments. Often times family members end up in serious disputes, which have on many occasions made it all the way into the courtroom.

How do I create a Living Will?

Each State in the United States contain their own requirements for creating a Living Will. In fact, the majority of people will hire a lawyer to facilitate the design of their specific Living Will and ensuring accuracy in following their specific State's guidelines. The exception is when you are able to find a good quality software application that not only takes in the account of individual State laws, but also eliminates the high legal fees. 

How does a Living Will work?

Many States will include advance directives, allowing you to state your wishes in as much or as little detail as you would like. For these documents to be valid, a Living Will must meet those State requirements in refrence to the notarization or witnesses. They can be revoked at any time, and will take effect immediately upon your signature or when you are determined by your physician that you are no longer capable of making your own decisions on treatment. Remember this, that the doctors will always rely on personal communication for as long as possible, over a document. 

Are there any other documents that go with my Living Will?

Living Wills are many times used in conjunction with a document called a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for healthcare. In some States, these two documents will be combined into one. A Durable Power of Attorney appoints someone to carry out the wishes about end-of-live treatmentss that are written doen in a Living Will or Medical Directive. The person named as your spokesman is called one of many titles:

  • agent
  • healthcare proxy
  • attorney-in-fact


It is very important to note, that any authority granted by a Living Will ends when the person who created the document dies, with the single exception that some Living Wills or Powers of Attorney give healthcare agents the power to make decisions about organ donation or autopsy. However, because those decisions must be made very soon after death, the authority is not long-lasting. Again, this is in sharp contrast to a regular "last will and testament", which has absolutely no effect when the will-creator is alive but becomes legally binding at their death. 

(Tags - legal documents - communication - Power of Attorney )

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