The Basics of a Living Will

Personal Injury Lawyer

When you are preparing end-of-life documents, you’ll probably be instructed to create a living will as well. This is different than a last will and testament, which details what should happen to your property and your children after you die. It may outline funeral arrangements, custody arrangements and other similar details. A living will is quite different, as it outlines what should happen if you are still legally living, but unable to make decisions for yourself. The following goes over some of the basics.

Decisions You Can Make

In your living will, there are certain decisions you can make so your loved ones don’t have to make those decisions for you. This includes:

  • Whether to keep you on life support or allow you to die.
  • What to do if you require a feeding tube.
  • If you would like to be artificially hydrated.
  • How much pain medication you should be given.

The only situation in which a living will would take precedence over your present state is when you can’t communicate on your own. For example, if you are able to communicate and tell a doctor you want to live, that would override a living will in which you previously stated you wouldn’t want a feeding tube to sustain life.

What Would Happen Without a Living Will

If you did not have a living will in place and went into a coma, for example, the hospital staff might make the decision for you based on what would be best for you. If you would die within a few hours without life support, a doctor may be tasked with deciding whether to keep you on or take you off. In other situations, your family members are tasked with those decisions, which could be very stressful and cause a lot of contention among those you love.

Other Names It Goes By

If you are working on your will, you might not ever hear the term “living will.” If your lawyer doesn’t bring it up, don’t be alarmed. Living wills are often referred to as “declarations,” “advanced directives” and “declarations regarding life-prolonging procedures.” In any case, these documents are all basically the same thing and your lawyer can walk you through the process of making decisions that you feel are important to you.

Creating Your Living Will

To begin creating your living will, it’s important you speak with a professional. Contact an estate planning lawyer with all your questions regarding estate planning and administration.