Attorney at Law
FOR LAWYERS

If an individual is in a situation in which they are unable to communicate their own wishes about the kind of medical care that they would prefer to receive, medical professionals may turn to a living will in order to guide their decisions. In this article, we’ll define the term “living will” and explain its use and importance. 

Key Takeaways

  • A living will is a document used in life-threatening medical situations 
  • In a living will, an individual can express their wishes for what kind of end-of-life medical care they do and do not wish to receive
  • A living will is important because it helps guide your loved ones and medical team in how to care for you in the event that you cannot communicate this information yourself, helping to avoid disputes and uncertainty
  • It is recommended to work with a lawyer to draft a living will in order to make sure it meets all legal requirements 

What Is a Living Will?

A living will, also called a directive to physicians or advance directive, is a document in which an individual can state their wishes for end-of-life medical care. It might be used in the case of terminal illness or life-threatening injury and touch upon decisions such as whether or not to use feeding tubes and assisted breathing.

Although its name is similar, a living will is not like the document in which people outline to whom their property will go after their death. Indeed, it has no power after death but only outlines one’s wishes for medical care in case they become unable to communicate their decisions.

A living will is an important part of estate planning, ensuring that you will be able to have your wishes met even if you are not in a state in which you can communicate them. It can be invaluable to your loved ones and medical team in helping guide their decisions about how to care for you. Without a living will, the decisions are left to these people to make without certainty about what kind of treatment you would prefer. Not only can this uncertainty be very difficult to deal with emotionally, but it can also lead to disputes that can even turn into legal battles.

How Living Wills Work

Many states have forms for living wills that can be filled out indicating wishes in as much or as little detail as one prefers. They often touch on things such as palliative care, or care intended to decrease suffering, and extraordinary measures, such as ventilation used to keep a person alive who would not be able to live without it.

In order to be valid, a living will must meet the state’s requirement about notarization and witnesses. It can also be revoked at any time. It can be made to become effective immediately upon signing or, alternatively, only when the person can no longer communicate their wishes about treatment. In either case, doctors generally prefer to rely on personal communication as long as possible before turning to documents. 

How to Write a Living Will

As noted above, the requirements for a living will vary from state to state. It is highly recommended to work with a lawyer in preparing your living will so you can be certain that you fulfill all of the necessary requirements and do not leave any room for ambiguity or misinterpretation. This is the best way to ensure that your wishes will be followed in the event of a medical emergency in which you are unable to communicate them yourself.

Ask a Lawyer

Ask your own question and get advice from expert attorneys
Ask Question

Featured Elder Law Lawyers

Jamie L. Gingold, PC

google-logo
23 years in practice
Bankruptcy, Elder Law
View Profile

Wells Law Firm, P.C.

google-logo
16 years in practice
Adoption, Child Custody, Child Support, Divorce & Family Law, Divorce Law
View Profile

Law Office of David L. Scott

google-logo
28 years in practice
Criminal Defense, Divorce & Family Law, Divorce Law, Elder Law
View Profile

RYTELAW

1 years in practice
Insurance Law, Personal Injury
View Profile

Issa Law, LLC

google-logo
13 years in practice
Auto Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Criminal Defense, DUI Law, Motorcycle Accidents
View Profile

Law Office of Tal Rubin, PC

google-logo
22 years in practice
Auto Accidents, Personal Injury
View Profile

Contact AttorneyAtLaw.com

Are you looking for an attorney? Do you have questions about a legal case you are facing? Contact us now and we will put you in touch with a lawyer for free.
Attorney At Law is changing how clients connect with lawyers. By providing an innovative platform to lawyers who want to expand their practice’s reach, AAL is bringing law practices into the future.
6142 Innovation Way
Carlsbad, California 92009
Some of the content of this website may be considered attorney advertising under the rules of certain jurisdictions. The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.
crossmenuchevron-upchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram