A living will is a legal document that specifies a person's wishes regarding medical treatment; specifically treatments that will prolong life. This form is prepared before it is actually needed and is used if you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself due to severe injury or a medical condition. It will typically detail any Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. It may also be used for people who wish to refuse certain types of medical treatment for personal or religious reasons, such as blood transfusions or life support should they fall into a coma.
Only someone who is 18 years or older and of sound mind can create a living will. Creating a living will means you need to choose a party you trust to carry out medical wishes on your behalf. This could be a family member, trusted friend, or an attorney. However, many states have specific laws in who can act on your behalf with a living will. You may also need two witnesses and to have all signatures witnessed by a notary public. Your state law will also explain who can act as a witness.
Living wills have several other names. Some of which include:
Every person who is a legal adult needs a living will. This guide walks you through the process of creating one. We cover what to include, the differences between a living will and similar documents, how to bring up the subject of living wills with your loved ones, and much more. Just remember that many laws that cover living wills are state specific. Make sure that you know and adhere to your state law so that your living will document is legally enforceable. We hope this guide helps you navigate the perhaps uncomfortable process of creating a living will.
There are other healthcare documents similar to a living will, including a durable power of attorney for healthcare and an advance directive. However, there are important distinctions between these documents.
Here’s a breakdown of those differences:
Your state law may advise you on which form you should use.
Yes, everyone who is a legal adult should have a living will. Having this document means that medical professionals will treat you exactly as you wish if you can no longer make your own medical decisions. This takes the stress off of your family, too.
Living wills are just as important for younger adults as they are for older ones. No one anticipates becoming unable to make their own decisions. Living wills are essential for determining whether you want your organs donated to save lives. Without one, no one, not even your spouse or parents, can make legal, financial, or healthcare decisions on your behalf without a first obtaining a court order.
Realistically speaking, your living will cannot provide for every possible outcome. For this reason, you should use language that covers the most likely situations and be clear about your wishes.
The best way to do this is to provide instructions for very specific situations using clear, concise language. Here are a couple of examples:
Alternatively, you might say:
What you dictate in your living will is up to you. Bear in mind that in some cases, doctors may not be able to continue treatment. Cases determined to be medically hopeless are considered a waste of resources and may not be controlled by the tenets of a living will.
You want to be sure you cover all the bases, but what exactly are the bases? It is difficult and troubling to imagine what sorts of situations might be likely to arise at the end of your life. The easiest approach is to download a free living will form for your state and fill in the blanks.
It is important to remember the following when you’re preparing to create your living will:
It’s important to talk with your parents, spouse, and other people to whom you are close to about having their own living will. Doing so will ensure that, in the event of a tragedy, a procedure and understanding will already be in place as long as the document was properly executed and given to the proper people.
These conversations can be difficult. Here are a few quick ways to sensitively raise the issue of living wills.
Living wills can be a difficult document to write from an emotional standpoint. They force you to confront a possibility none of us want to happen. However, it is vital for you and your loved ones that you establish a living will. Should something tragic happen to you, your loved ones will already have enough to deal with. A living will ensures they won’t also have to figure out what medical care you would or would not want.
Our team at FormSwift created a ranking of the most expensive states to die in, in the United States. We separated these costs into three scenarios - dying at home, dying in a hospital, and dying in a nursing facility. We created our ranking by evenly weighting the following costs associated with dying: average living wage for one adult, average funeral cost, average medical costs, and average final year costs associated with dying at home, in a hospital, and in a nursing facility.
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A Living Will establishes your wishes in relation to medical treatments in the event of your being unable to express your preferences for treatments, or withdrawal thereof. It establishes in advance your best interests and opinions in relation to quality of life, thus minimising differences of opinion amongst loved ones to whom the decisions would otherwise fall.Read More
A power of attorney is used to name another person to take care of your personal or business affairs. These documents can be temporary, such as when a member of the military is deployed overseas, or they can be permanent.Read More
A Health Care Proxy allows you to arrange for your preferred health care treatments to be pre-arranged in the unfortunate circumstances of your becoming unable to express your wishes. It legally authorizes your preferred appointed person to make choices on your behalf and protect your interests.Read More
A Medical Consent Form legally protects a vulnerable person, such as a child, elderly or disabled person and ensures they receive appropriate treatement when needed in the absence of a key care giver. It protects the treatment provider by giving them the right to carry out appropriate treatments.Read More