What should I know about a living will?

On Behalf of | May 27, 2024 | Estate Planning |

At some point, you may be in a situation where you cannot communicate what kind of medical treatment you want to your doctors. Even if you are still young and healthy, a sudden event such as a car accident or a illness could severely disable you. Without advance medical planning, your doctors might give you medicine or care that you do not agree with.

A key document that people include in their advance medical plans is a living will. This helps you ensure that doctors and care providers respect your healthcare wishes.

Defining a living will

A living will is a legal document that outlines a person’s preferences for medical treatment if they become incapacitated. Generally, it specifies what kinds of life-sustaining treatments a person wants or does not want, but it can address many kinds of treatment and care. However, a living will only takes effect under certain conditions.

When you may need a living will

A living will becomes active when you are unable to communicate your medical preferences. This often includes scenarios like being in a coma, suffering from severe brain damage, or being in a persistent vegetative state. In these situations, healthcare providers refer to the living will to guide the treatment decisions.

Provisions a living will can contain

Through your living will, you may describe various medical situations and decide what treatments you do or do not desire. Some common provisions are decisions about cardiopulmonary resuscitation, where you can state whether you want medical responders to revive you if your heart stops. You may also address mechanical ventilation, stating whether or not you want to be on a ventilator to assist with breathing.

Your living will can also address artificial nutrition and hydration, indicating whether you wish to receive food and water through a tube. Pain management preferences and organ donation decisions can also be a part of your living will.

Creating a living will is a use of estate planning that makes sure doctors understand what you would want in a given situation. By clearly outlining medical treatment choices, a living will provides peace of mind and guides healthcare providers and family members in making decisions that comply with your values.