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What You Need to Know About Living Wills

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If something happened to you today that made it impossible for you to make medical decisions for yourself, would there be anyone who knows exactly what your wishes would be? 

A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, does just that. It outlines your wishes so that your family knows what to do if something happens to you.

A living will is different from a last will and testament. A last will and testament is used after a person’s death and lays out how the deceased wants their assets and property distributed to their family and friends. On the other hand, a living will is a type of an advance directive that states how one wants their medical care handled if they are rendered unable to communicate those wishes in the future.

Having a living will in place makes things easier for your family and loved ones in case of an emergency. They won’t have to guess what you might want or feel guilty about decisions they make for you. Today, we will take a closer look at the things you should know about creating a living will, so that you can be better informed when the time comes to prepare yours.

Rules for Living Wills Vary by State

Depending on where you live, a living will may have a different name. Some states refer to it as a directive or—specifically— a healthcare directive. States may also have different procedures and different requirements for creating and executing living wills.

If you regularly spend extended time in multiple states, you will want to ensure that your living will is valid in those other state(s). Most of the time, living wills are honored in other states, regardless of the state they are created in, but to be completely sure, check the rules for each state in which you spend extended time.

A Living Will Is a Legal, Binding Document    

When you create a living will, it becomes a legal, binding document. You cannot verbally convey your wishes or simply write it down and call it a living will. Your living will has to cover what you want to happen if you become permanently incapacitated, terminally ill, or unable to convey your wishes by some other means.

When Your Living Will Goes Into Effect

Your living will does not go into effect if you are conscious and can make your own decisions. Also, you cannot be declared unable to make decisions or unconscious by just anyone. A physician needs to make the determination, and a second physician must agree and confirm the diagnosis. It’s important to make sure that your physician is aware of your living will to ensure that they will follow your wishes and be willing to comply with the decisions you have made.

You Can Change Your Living Will

No one else can change your living will for you without your permission. After you create your living will, if you wish to make changes, there are specific steps you must take. You cannot simply destroy the old living will. You have to either revoke the original will, or cancel the existing living will and create a new one. 

Should You Still Name a Power Of Attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney (POA) is a particular form of power of attorney. When a person is named a healthcare POA, they can exclusively make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so for yourself. A healthcare POA is different from a living will, but it is an option available to you. 

You Should Have a Living Will Regardless of Your Age

Although you may think a living will is something for the elderly, any adult can benefit from creating a living will. Even healthy young adults run the risk of accidents or unexpected illnesses that could leave them unable to make their own healthcare decisions. Having a living will in place can help alleviate the burden presented to parents and spouses if something should happen to you.

Will Your Living Will Be Followed?

Your doctors will ultimately make treatment decisions for you, and they are not required to follow your living will, however they typically do. To make sure your doctor will respect your wishes, speak with them in advance to make sure they know your choices.

Not only will this conversation convey your wishes, but it will also allow the doctor to ask questions and clarify details, and they may be able to address something that you might have missed. If your doctor expresses that they will not comply with your will, you should discuss their reasoning and consider their input. However, if this is the case, it may be best to choose another physician that will honor your wishes.

Let Our Experienced Attorneys Help You Create a Living Will

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

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