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Living Wills

Complicated mechanisms. Delicate weak fragile lady lying in hospital bed and getting better while special apparatus supporting her breathing


A living will is a critical component of any estate plan. A living will is not the same thing as a regular will (or a simple will). A living will provide specific directives so that your wishes will be followed if you’re alive but unable to communicate due to medical infirmity. A living will specifies your decisions about end of life medical care. A living will, for example, will specify the level of aggression you want to be used in order to prolong your life. The living will differs from medical power of attorney because where medical power of attorney endows your agent with the ability to make health care decisions, the living will enumerates certain specifics about what kind of care you want to receive.

The types of issues addressed in a living will might include what kind of treatment you wish to receive in the event of any of the following:

-if you can no longer breathe on your own;

-if you can no longer feed yourself;

-if you want extraordinary measures to be used to prolong your life;

-if you want your family members to heed doctor advice in the event the doctor deems that you are in an irrecoverable coma;

-DNRs and DNIs

A living will only takes effect if you become unable to communicate or incapacitated. If you were to regain consciousness and become able to make decisions for yourself, the living will would have no authority. A living will can give a great deal of peace of mind to family members in the event that you have specific wishes that would be difficult for a family member to decide on without your direction, e.g. DNR or DNIs. Contact our experienced legal team at Wills & Trusts to set up your initial consultation. From there we can schedule a remote signing.

The term living will can be confused with a will.  A living will is a document containing statements and information about end of life directives.  More specifically a living will provides guidance to your family, agents and medical providers about what kind of end of life care you wish to receive and directives concerning resuscitation, intubation, and artificial life support.   

If you do not have a living will then your next of kin will be forced into the somewhat uncomfortable position of making end of life care decisions.  This can create difficulty when family members disagree about your wishes concerning end of life care.  For example, one family member might push for aggressive artificial life support whereas some might want to spare the heartache that sometimes comes along with intubation, CPR, and breathing machines.   

The living will is only in effect when you cannot communicate your desires concerning end of life care.  Living wills are typically used when you are terminally ill and you are at the juncture of making decisions about using life-sustaining medical care.   

An advanced health care directive is a comprehensive set of documents and directives that will govern your care and treatment when you cannot make decisions for yourself.  This set of documents usually includes a living will, a health care power of attorney, and it might include a HIPAA authorization.   


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