A living will is very different from a traditional will, and one does not take the place of the other. Do not think that because you have a will already drawn up and in place that you do not need a living will. Your traditional will covers any property bequests to family and friends after your death, as well as who will care for your minor children.
What is a living will and why is it necessary?
A living will provides clear instructions to medical personnel as to your wishes should you become terminally ill or in a vegetating state. This document addresses your desires regarding the following:
- Life support
- Feeding tubes
- Pain medication
- Artificial hydration
- Medical treatments
Additional names you may hear a living will referred to as include:
- Advance directive
- Directive to physicians
- Declaration regarding life-prolonging procedures
- Medical directive
When Does the Living Will Go into Effect?
A living will goes into action when a terminal situation makes it impossible for you to speak for yourself as to your medical care. It is not the same as a healthcare surrogate form or durable power of attorney (DPOA) for healthcare. With those forms, you are assigning someone to make moment to moment decisions on your healthcare. The decisions made are up to the individual of whom you granted that power.
The living will acts when you are unable to communicate your wishes due to a terminal condition. For example, some people may express the desire only for “palliative care” to decrease pain and suffering, but not include life-saving measures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Others may want everything possible that can be done to sustain life to go into effect.
The living will offers guidance to medical professionals in the event of the following:
- Severe injury rendering unconsciousness
- Terminal illness
- Permanent unconsciousness or vegetative state
You can also specify in your living will if you wish for your organs to be donated upon your death. Please know that all other aspects of the living will end immediately upon death.
The living will allows you to decide the actions you wish doctors to take in advance of a serious situation. The document removes confusion, arguments, disagreements, and concerns over how to handle the issue from your loved ones. By declaring a person to hold your health care power of attorney, you place any decisions in the hands of individuals you select. Without a living will, a judge may need to step in and decide your fate if your relatives do not agree.
For additional information about living wills, or to arrange to create one, please contact Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook. We provide answers to your questions. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.