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What is a Living Will?

When we speak of “wills,” the first thing to pop into your mind is that important document explaining how someone wants to distribute her money and properties to her family and loved ones after she dies. If you’ve seen The Grand Budapest Hotel or Knives Out, then you probably would have remembered these, too—movies (both entertaining and star-studded, if I may say!) that involve this particular kind of will.

In legal terms, such a will is referred to as the Last Will and Testament. But we’re not here to talk about that!

Did you know that there’s another kind of will that is totally different but equally important as the Last Will and Testament? It’s called the Living Will, and this is what we will be focusing on today!

So what is it? And do you need one?


What is a living will?

For starters, it is good to know that a living will is similarly a legal document but functions very differently—it has nothing to do with your properties and, in fact, is mainly for use while you’re alive!

Instead, a living will is a document that spells out what you want (and do not want) to be

done with regard to your end-of-life medical care matters, especially in the case that you are incapacitated and unable to communicate these preferences.

The living will is also sometimes referred to as a health care declaration or advance healthcare directive, and it spells out your wishes and preferences so that your doctors, nurses, and caregivers can provide you with the kind of care that YOU want.

Even if you are no longer able to think and/or speak properly, your loved ones and medical providers don’t need to second guess what you’d want--it’s all right there in your living will. These individuals know exactly how you wish to be treated and attended to, particularly on matters concerning end-of-life care.

How is a Living Will different from a Medical Power of Attorney?

If you have read my blog post on Incapacity Planning, then you’ve probably got the basics.

As mentioned earlier, a living will deals with end-of-life care matters. That being so, it takes effect only when the person is already in a vegetative state (or unaware or unresponsive state). The medical POA is different in that it becomes effective when the person is also incapacitated, but such that there is still a realistic hope of her recovery.

Another notable difference is the personalities involved in these two different documents. The powers contained in a medical POA can be granted to generally anyone that the person trusts, while the living will is fundamentally for the person’s doctors and caregivers, just as what was discussed earlier.

What is End-of-Life Care?

What do I mean by end-of-life care? Well, in contrast to a medical power of attorney (which typically takes effect any time someone is incapacitated or unable to speak for themselves, even if they may recover), a living will deals with when it truly is almost the end. It also deals specifically with situations where someone is unresponsive, unaware, or even in a permanent vegetative state. Not exactly easy to think about--but that’s why it’s helpful to plan ahead.

Many people have very strong feelings about what kind of care they’d like in these situations. Preferences regarding life support? Resuscitation? Life-prolonging medicines and hospital treatments? These are usually the preferences within a living will.

Do you need one?

A living will is a pretty important document, even if you’re perfectly healthy. There are numerous advantages to having this document in place; here are the three P’s of living wills!

  • Protection: A living will protects a person during a difficult situation where communicating her preferences is no longer possible. It helps medical professionals, as well as the person’s family members, to know how to proceed and attend to her, even without her “real time” participation and approval in the decision-making process.

  • Peace: A living will saves the family members from possible disagreements as to how the person shall be treated and cared for during that particular situation. Because the living will already contains what the person herself wants, there is no room for debates among her family and loved ones. Removing this potential conflict helps the family focus on the situation at hand.

  • Practicality: A living will reduces unwanted expenses on the part of the family members, precisely because the document already contains what must and must not be done to treat the person. (Yes, sometimes these decisions end up in court--a living will can help avoid that!) In fact, a living will can even specify the maximum amount the person wants the family to spend on their care.

You may still have some questions or concerns—I would be more than happy to answer them via a virtual consultation. It’s casual and absolutely free, so go ahead and sign up here!

You may also contact me by clicking this link. I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss more of these with you!

Talk to you guys again in the next post!


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