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Living Wills

In addition to the trio of important future planning documents; your will, financial power of attorney and medical power of attorney, you should consider whether you would like to have a “Living Will.”

What is a Living Will?

A “Living Will” is an advance medical directive that tells your doctor whether you would like to have artificial life-support in the event of a terminal illness where you are incapacitated, or if you are in a “persistent vegetative state.” A persistent vegetative state is a state of permanent unconsciousness involving massive brain damage but not “brain death.” In this state, a person is alive, however unable to function. The Living Will has two main benefits. It ensures that your wishes are implemented, and it also alleviates family members from having to make some difficult decisions.

What do I Direct in a Living Will?

You direct your doctors to continue or discontinue life-sustaining procedures, artificial nutrition, and artificial hydration. You can also authorize people to be informed of your medical condition.

Can I Provide Direction for Life-Sustaining Treatment in my Medical Power of Attorney Instead?

You could provide your agent direction with regards to decisions for life-sustaining treatment in a Medical Power of Attorney, however the two documents serve different purposes.

The Medical Power of Attorney authorizes an agent of your choice to make medical decisions for you. You can provide that agent specific direction about what to do in certain circumstances.

However, a Living Will is more narrowly tailored and directs your doctor to take specific actions on your behalf rather than identifying another person to make or convey that decision for you. In a Living Will you convey direction personally to the medical professional caring for you through the written document when you can not verbally convey that decision.

What are the Main Similarities and Differences Between a Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney?

Similarities:

  • Cover medical treatment
  • Must be entered into voluntarily

Differences:

  • Type and Specificity of Medical Issues Addressed
  • Direction to a medical professional vs. direction to an agent
Should I Have a Medical Power of Attorney and a Living Will?

Because a Living Will covers only the narrow issues of life sustaining treatment, it may not address other important medical concerns that you might have. For example, you might want to forego a blood transfusion. Because a blood transfusion does not fall under life-sustaining treatment, you could address it in a Medial Power of Attorney.

Does a Living Will go Into Effect Immediately Upon Entering Either Medical Status?

No, there is a wait period allowing time to establish that the medical state is not likely to be reversed in the near-term. Your Living Will does not go into effect until 48 hours after two doctors agree in writing that you have a terminal condition and are unable to speak for yourself, or that you are in a persistent vegetative state.

What are the Requirements for a Valid Living Will?

Your Living Will must be signed by two witnesses. The witnesses cannot be:

  • your doctors or nurses
  • an employee of your medical facility
  • a creditor, or
  • anyone likely to inherit property from you.

However, your witnesses may be other patients as long as they are at least 18 and mentally competent. It is best to have your signature notarized, however a Living Will is still valid without a notarization.

If you have any questions about your future planning, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free, no-obligation initial consultation. You can call 720-709-4729, or use the online contact form.

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