Many of us have shared the same nightmare. We are slowly dying in a hospital bed, tubes going in and out of your body, being kept alive by machines. Even worse, we are unable to communicate our wishes to our caregivers and loved ones gathered around. No one knows what we want.
The way to prevent this nightmare from becoming real is a living will. A living will is completely different from a conventional will or living trust used to leave property at the time of your death. A living will applies only to healthcare.
What is a Living Will?
A living will is a document in which you describe the kind of healthcare you want to receive if you are incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself due to illness, injury, or advanced age. Sometimes it is called a healthcare declaration, a directive to physicians, a healthcare directive, or a medical directive.
A living will not only benefits you and ensures you get what you want, but it also helps your family. It can be tough for family members to have to make end-of-life decisions on your behalf when they have no idea what you would want.
In a living will, you can include any wishes you have for your medical care. You can ask that certain types of care always be given or instruct that certain types of care never be given or anything in between. Take some time to carefully define the circumstances that make you comfortable. You can revoke a living will at any time by simply destroying the document.
Do You Want to Keep Living, Regardless?
Living will documents will ask if you want to receive treatments that will prolong your life, but will not make you better. Such treatments include blood transfusions, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPA), diagnostic tests, dialysis, administration of drugs (other than for pain), us of a respirator, and surgery.
Do You Want To Be Fed by Tube?
A living will can and should address the administration of fluids and nutrients via intravenous feed or tubes. People who are comatose or near death cannot feed themselves. With artificial hydration and feed, a permanently comatose person can live for years and a terminally ill person can take much longer to die.
What If You Are in Pain?
The living will should address palliative care. Palliative care keeps a patient comfortable and free from pain until life ends naturally. It is especially important when a patient has rejected life-prolonging treatments, fluids, and nutrition. Palliative care does not try to cure an illness or condition or to prolong life. Palliative care can be administered at home, in a hospice facility, or in a hospital.
How Do I Make a Living Will?
Living will templates are readily available. After your written document is completed, you must sign it and have it witnessed or notarized, or both, depending on the laws and statutes in the state where you live. Make multiple copies and give them to family members, your healthcare agent, your doctors, and your hospital or care facility.
A living will is often paired with a power of attorney for healthcare, in which you name an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Some states have combined these two documents into one called an advanced healthcare directive.
The law surrounding appropriate use of a living will can be complicated. In addition, the laws in each state and the facts in each case are unique. For more information regard living wills and any of your other estate planning needs, contact the Phoenix estate planning attorneys here at Kamper, Estrada & Simmons, LLP are here to help. Our goal is to put your family and your affairs in the best position possible—both during life and in the future. Call us today!