What Is a Living Will?

You may have heard about living wills and wondered what the difference is between a living will and a regular will. It’s not surprising that such confusion exists.

A living will, despite its name, is nothing like a regular will. While the latter deals with your assets and states how you want them distributed after your death, the former deals with your healthcare preferences and states the types of medical care, treatment, therapies, and interventions you want – and don’t want – if and when you become too injured or ill to make those wishes known to your caregivers.

Living Will Specifics

Since your living will is a legally binding document, you should think carefully about your values before making one. For instance, ask yourself the following:

  • How important is it to me that I remain independent and self-sufficient?
  • Are there any circumstances under which I would not find my life worth living?
  • Do I want medical treatments to preserve my life at all costs?
  • Do I want only those treatments that relieve my pain?

Depending on your answers to these and other questions, your living will likely should include your preferences regarding the following:

  • CPR
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Tube feeding
  • Dialysis
  • Palliative care

You can also specify whether you want to donate your organs and tissues for transplantation and whether you want to donate your body for scientific study. Finally, be sure to specify the person, called your healthcare agent, you want to carry out your wishes and make other medical decisions for you when you cannot make them yourself.

What to Do with Your Living Will

Your living will does no good if the proper people don’t know about it. Consequently, once completed and signed, do the following:

  • Put the original in a safe place that’s easily accessible to you and others.
  • Give your doctor a copy.
  • Give your healthcare agent a copy.
  • Keep a record of who has the copies.
  • Keep a copy with you when you travel.
  • Carry a small card in your wallet stating that you have a living will, where it can be found, and the name of your healthcare agent.

Getting Legal Advice

Keep in mind that a living will may be called something else in your state, such as one of the following:

  • Advance healthcare directive
  • Personal directive
  • Advance directive
  • Medical directive

Alternatively, your state may distinguish between and among these specific documents. Your wisest strategy when contemplating making a living will is to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced local lawyer, like an estate planning lawyer in New York from Kaplan Law Practice. He or she can not only advise you of the laws in your state, but also draft a living will by any other name for you that meets your goals, objectives and wishes, and adheres to all applicable state laws.