Life can be unpredictable, but what happens to you doesn’t need to be. A living will is not only for those getting older — making an end-of-life plan is essential at any age, as emergencies are rarely anticipated. It is especially necessary if you have loved ones who are dependent on you, as accidents can happen that could incapacitate you and you want to make sure the right people have the power over what happens to you.
Health care choices when you are unable to make decisions on your own, and end-of-life autonomy are both extremely important to be assured of — a living will gives you that assurance. This article will go over why it is important to have a living will and how you can go about making one of your own.
What is a Living Will?
A living will (also known as an advance healthcare directive) is a legal document that informs your family and doctors what you wish your end-of-life health care will be. A living will often names a medical power of attorney (that is a trusted individual of your choosing) to make any necessary medical decisions on your behalf. A living will also details what happens if you are put on life-sustaining medical equipment and what sort of treatment you desire in case of an emergency where you are not able to make decisions for yourself. This can pertain to life support, how you are revived, being tube fed, donating organs, and any surgery you may need.
A living will is not a DNR (do-not-resuscitate) form, as a DNR only authorizes doctors to withhold life-saving medical treatment. It is also different from a last will and testament, as a living will does not allocate assets and property — it is only intended to detail what will happen with your medical care if you cannot make those choices for yourself. It is important to add a living will to any last will and testament for additional security in the case of incapacitation.
Why is a Living Will Important?
Communicates Your Wishes Even if You Are Unable
Being able to dictate your end-of-life treatment and medical care helps serve as your voice in case you are unable to speak. Medical professionals will have to make the choice for you if you do not have any power of attorney or end-of-life plan. Perhaps there are certain steps you wish them not to take, such as resuscitation or being on a ventilator, and that is your right when you have a living will.
Keeps Distressed Family from Having to Choose
When a loved one is fighting for their life after an unseen emergency, it is an incredibly stressful and hard time for family. This stress can cause loved ones to fight and argue over your health care and what should happen to you next. You don’t want your lack of a living will to cause a rift in your family due to each person making their best guess as to your wishes. Having a verified legal document in place helps to eliminate any debate over what should happen to you. Without your guidance via a Living Will, your family may end up in court fighting over how to treat you.
Refuses Treatments You Do Not Authorize
A living will can outline what you are and are not willing to have done in terms of surgeries and other medical treatments. The decision is yours with a living will, and you can elect to have or not to have certain treatments and procedures as you see fit.
What to Include in Your Living Will
There are a few items you will want included in your living will:
- Directives outlining if you do or do not want life-prolonging procedures given or continued in the case you will not survive.
- Outlines what treatments you authorize and which ones you do not (CPR, organ donation, surgeries, ventilation, etc.)
- Your palliative care wishes (specialized medical care for those with severe illness or injury.)
- Any faith-specific end-of-life wishes, in case your religion has its own set of rules for how to handle you after your death.
Make Your Voice Heard with Brackin & Johnson
An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you address legal matters that can affect your quality of life and health. You’ll need an expert to interpret complex Alabama laws and you’ll want the very best to help you plan for your loved ones.
At Brackin & Johnson, our experienced Estate Planning attorneys can assist you or your loved ones with planning for long term care and ensuring medical needs are met should the time come when you or your family member can no longer care for oneself.
Medical and Financial Planning are our specialty, and we will work with you to ensure that your future is laid out in writing. If you’re searching for a skilled attorney specializing in estate planning, living wills, and power of attorney, get in touch with us today to schedule your free initial consultation.