According to numerous experts, having a living will is highly advantageous since it allows you to take charge and dictate how you want to live and die. However, despite the numerous benefits that come with having, studies suggest that majority of Americans do not have living wills. A recent report by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) states that only 45 percent of American adults have a living will.
One of the main reasons why most people are reluctant to sign living wills is because they are not fully aware of what it entails. Therefore, if you or a loved one have been considering having a living will, it is fundamental for you to fully comprehend what they entail. Below is a brief elucidation of everything you need to know about living wills.
What Is a Living Will?
Despite the name, a living will is not the type of will that people use to leave property after their death. Instead, a living will is a legal document that gives people a chance to state their wishes for their end-of-life medical care if they become incapacitated and unable to communicate their decisions clearly. Put simply, a living will clearly spells out the medical treatments you would and would not want administered to keep you alive.
Typically, a living will addresses several end-of-life care decisions that you may face. Numerous experts opine that having a living will is highly essential since it spares your family members any confusion and frustration by offering guidance on the steps that should be taken in the event that you cannot express your wishes.
Without a living will, or an advance directive as it's often referred to, family members and healthcare providers are usually left to guess what a critically ill person would have preferred in terms of treatment. Therefore, if you have hired an experienced estate planning attorney to help you with estate planning, it is advisable not to overlook a living will.
How Do You Write a Living Will?
Typically, the prerequisites for making a living will usually differ from one state to another. That said, it is advisable to hire an experienced estate planning attorney who will help you prepare your estate planning documents, as well as your living will. In general, a living will should include the following information:
- A clear declaration: Your living will should clearly state that you do not want any life-prolonging procedures performed if there is no probability of your survival.
- Clear and precise directions about the type of medical you do or do not want: For instance, whenever your heart stops beating, should cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) be administered? Other examples of medical procedures you should be clear about include dialysis, mechanical ventilation that helps with breathing, and tube feeding.
- Directions on organ and tissue donation: This basically entails whether you would wish to have your body donated to science or your organs removed for donation. If you do, then you will be temporarily administered with life-sustaining treatment until your organs are removed for donation.
- Your palliative care wishes: This involves clearly stating the type of medication you are comfortable with, directions on whether you would like to die at home, and any invasive tests that you would or would not want to be administered.
All in all, it is fundamental for you to ensure that your living will is as detailed as possible in order to avoid putting your doctors and relatives in a difficult situation.
Can You Change Your Living Will?
Yes, it is possible for you to change your living will. However, the specific requirements on how to go about this usually vary from state to state. That said, if you desire to make changes to your living will, it is imperative that you create a new document and share the new copies with all relevant parties. Also, do not forget to delete the old copies.
Additionally, you should ensure that you discuss the new changes with your medical practitioner, and ascertain that the new living will is inserted in your medical file. Oftentimes, people consider changing their living wills when:
- They are diagnosed with a terminal illness.
- They have experienced a change in their marital life. This is because when you are divorced, separated, widowed, or recently married; you may need to select a new healthcare agent.
- Their thoughts on end-of-life care have changed over time. It is advisable to frequently review your living will and ensure that it consists of thoughts and values you currently believe in. This is highly essential since, as time goes by, our thoughts and beliefs on end-of-life care tend to change.
Is a Living Will Important?
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), having a living will is important since it; provides guidance to your doctors and healthcare practitioners, prevents conflict among family members, and provides clarity and closure to your loved ones. Additionally, a living will gives you the chance to take charge and continue being the captain of your ship, by deciding on the end-of-life care treatment you wish to receive. That said, it is fundamental for you to ensure that your living will abides by the requirements of your state's laws.