A Living Will is what?

If you’re asleep or otherwise unable to communicate, a living will outlines the medical procedures you’d prefer—or avoid—having.

A living will informs those caring for you about the therapies you choose or would prefer to forego if you are asleep or otherwise unable to communicate. A living will usually becomes necessary when you can no longer make decisions for yourself and want to avoid artificially delaying an impending death.

But before you draft a living will, it’s crucial to understand what it is, how it operates, what it contains, and why you might want one. Additionally, you might discover that you’re more interested in a living will substitute.

Example and Definition of Living Wills

We frequently imagine a “will” to be a document that specifies how we want our assets distributed after we pass away. A living will, however, only addresses the kind of medical care you do or do not want if you are unable to communicate. 1 For instance, if you have a critical injury, are unconscious, have severe dementia, or are about to pass away.

A living will is a legal document that expresses your preferences to medical professionals, hospital staff, and your family.

1 Your living will can be a component of your important estate planning papers. The following additional advance directives could be included in or added to the living will:

  • Choosing a proxy or health care representative: a representative you designate to make medical decisions on your behalf
  • Guidance for organ donation: Usually completed online or preserved with other important documentation

Oral instructions to family and friends may take the place of earlier written requests. As long as you are still capable of making medical decisions, you can also withdraw your living will at any moment.

The Function of Living Wills

You won’t start earning a living merely because you’re momentarily unconscious, such after a mild concussion. A living will, on the other hand, is concerned with medical care that artificially extends life when there is no chance of recovery from a physical or mental condition.

Living wills are frequently governed by state law, with simple, free forms accessible for people to complete after consulting with medical specialists. Forms typically have parts for:

  • Conditions like a terminal illness, an incurable mental illness, physical reliance, or pregnancy
  • Typical therapies: Providing comfort or life-sustaining care
  • Particular therapies: hospital admission, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and tube feeding

Depending on your state, a living will form could specify which conditions you don’t want the following medical procedures:

  • If your heart or breathing cease, get resuscitated.
  • IV or tube feedings supported by a breathing machine
    transfusions of blood
  • Dialysis
  • Tests, surgeries, or other treatments that use antibiotics

The living will form often needs to be signed by two witnesses and may be submitted to a state agency for storage.

Sadly, despite a living will, it is still feasible for a doctor to disregard your preferences. Such circumstances frequently result from misinterpretations or misunderstandings of the living will by doctors or family members.

Make sure others are aware of and understand your living will to reduce the likelihood of a miscommunication. Give a copy to your family and your doctor, and preserve a copy with your other important papers. Make sure your living will is available to your health care proxy or representative, if you have one. Additionally, you might want to carry a wallet-sized copy of your living will at all times.

Even if you don’t wish to be kept alive through artificial means, living wills shouldn’t prevent you from receiving painkillers or other forms of therapy.

Is a Living Will Necessary?

Living wills and other advance care directives may be created by both healthy persons and those with chronic diseases. Living wills allow you to direct medical professionals and worried family members without imposing the weight of making life-or-death decisions on them.

Substitutes for living wills

DIY living wills have two alternatives: voluntary medical instructions, which need to be signed by a doctor or another licensed healthcare provider. These are typically for those who are ill or who have certain requirements:

  • POLST stands for “Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment,” also known as portable medical orders. This document, which also includes your signature or the signature of your health care proxy, has more detailed instructions for end-of-life treatment. In certain states, it could go by a similar but different acronym, although most states recognize it.
  • Orders to “do not resuscitate” (DNR) In an emergency, these medical orders normally only address resuscitation and not any other kind of care.

Living Trust vs. Living Will

Living trusts resemble ordinary wills more. It is a kind of legal document that aids in managing your estate both during your lifetime and after your passing. Health care wishes are unrelated to a living trust.

POLST versus a Living Will

A living will is a legal document, whereas a POLST is a more complicated medical document. Your doctor completes the POLST after talking to you about the emergency therapies you’d like. It cannot be used by you to designate a healthcare surrogate or proxy, but it can be utilized by emergency personnel to forgo doing CPR on you or taking you to the hospital. There are particular forms that must be used for a POLST in several states.

How Much Do Living Wills Cost and Where Can I Get One?

A living will might cost nothing or very little money. Some states provide free forms that you can complete with your unique requests. You might be able to document your living will in other states for a modest price, but you could require a notary or witnesses. Additionally, you can create a living will with the help of a lawyer or perhaps even online will-writing services.

Main Points
A living will specifies your wishes for treatment in the event that you become unconscious or have a serious disease that prevents you from communicating with your family or doctors.
Find out how your state handles living wills; many states provide free, fillable forms.
You can specify your preferred course of therapy for specific ailments in a living will.
Consider using a POLST, or portable medical orders, that are endorsed by your doctor if you want to give more detailed instructions.

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