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How does a living will work?

On Behalf of | Oct 23, 2023 | Estate Planning |

A 2020 Gallup report showed 45% of Americans have a living will. This estate document can be quite beneficial in certain circumstances.

A living will allows you to express your medical treatment preferences in the event you cannot due to incapacitation. It serves as a guiding light for healthcare providers and loved ones in making decisions regarding medical care.

The format of a living will

A living will begins with clear and unequivocal instructions about the kind of medical care you wish to receive or refuse if you are unable to voice your preferences. This could involve life-sustaining treatments such as ventilators, feeding tubes, resuscitation or organ donation. You have the autonomy to outline your choices, ensuring respect for your values and beliefs.

It is essential to understand that a living will does not offer blanket protection against all unforeseen situations. Medical scenarios can be complex and diverse. You cannot cover every conceivable situation. Thus, it is important to review and update your living will periodically to ensure it aligns with your current wishes and changing medical technologies.

Moreover, a living will operates independently of your financial or legal affairs. It solely addresses your medical treatment preferences. It does not grant decision-making authority to anyone. It only provides a roadmap for those responsible for your healthcare decisions.

Communicating wishes

Once you craft your living will, you should communicate your wishes to your healthcare team and family members. Clearly expressing your wishes helps eliminate ambiguity, enabling your loved ones to make decisions in line with your desires, rather than guessing what you would want.

Additional steps

You may also want to designate a healthcare proxy or agent. You can do this with a healthcare power of attorney. This individual is responsible for honoring your medical preferences and can make decisions on your behalf if circumstances arise that your living will does not cover.

A living will is an invaluable tool for expressing your medical treatment preferences. It empowers you to make choices about your healthcare even if you cannot do so at the time of incapacitation.