Living Wills; likely, the most difficult and sensitive subject to discuss after Last Will and Testament.
No one likes to discuss these things, so let’s get the elephant out of the room first. It is depressing. It isn’t fun. Ask anyone, and I doubt planning a Living Will makes even the bottom one hundred of a bucket list. Yet, it is one of the most important actions you can take to protect both yourself and your loved ones.
It is always advisable to consult an attorney when making a Will. An attorney can provide the accurate legal advice for your state, in addition to ensuring your documents are accurate, and legally reflect your specific wishes.
For family members experiencing dementia related diseases, legal advice is especially important. In these situations, time is of the essence before the family member may no longer legally considered capable of decision making.
It is hoped that the guidance below will be helpful, informative, and a conversation starter with key family members. It is not in any way meant to be legal advice. Anyone making a Will of any kind, should do so under the guidance of an experienced practicing attorney.
What a Living Will Is
A Living Will is your opportunity to choose how you wish to be medically treated in the event you are no longer able to communicate. Also known as an Advanced Directive or Physicians Directive, its function is to state and direct your wishes at end of life care.
A Living Will provides specific guidance, especially to family members and medical staff who may not know what the wishes of a seriously ill patient are.
It also removes doubt. Think about it, your loved ones are likely to be under a great deal of stress during this time; tensions among even the closest of families can run high. A son or daughter may claim you have expressed interest in a DNR (do not resuscitate), another family member might dispute this. Or disagree with the principal of a DNR entirely. For emotional and personal reasons, another family member might not be ready to accept a terminal or end of life situation.
Without your wishes being codified into a legal document, the above scenario is likely to express itself outside your ICU, and into a courtroom.
Creating a Living Will
You can download a digital Living Will via various software programs. However, laws change by state, so if you choose to take this route, you need to ensure your state is covered under this software. Additionally, a legal form download is not the same as a consultation. Any questions specific to your Living Will need to be answered by an attorney.
How it Works
Remember, you are in control. A Living Will is a directive governed by your wishes. It can be as detailed as you wish. A terminally ill patient may request the administration of palliative care when unable to communicate. In the event of a cardiac arrest however, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) not be deployed. The latter would be considered an extraordinary measure as the failure to administer CPR may be life ending at that stage.
Must be Valid
Remember, regardless of how you make your Living Will, for it to be legally binding and valid, the document must be notarized and witnessed. Just having a piece of paper expressing your wishes is not enough. Forget what you might have seen in the movies.
A legally notarized document, is proof you are the one actually signing the form, AND the directive has been made by your hand and by your own free will.
Know where to Look
Don’t overlook letting your family know where the document is located! Sticking the document in the drawer and not letting your family know where it is, does nothing for anyone. You may opt to keep the original in a safe place in your home, in addition to providing a copy to a trusted family member or friend. Whatever you decide, make sure the document is accessible to the most important people in your life.
When Does It Become Valid
The Living Will may become valid immediately, or, in some cases, effective only when you cannot communicate your wishes to the medical staff charged with taking care of you.
What if I Change My Mind?
Your Living Will is reversible. In other words, you can change it! Should your medical situation change, you can revoke the Living Will, or make amendments to the document should personal circumstances change.
When Does it End?
Other than your decision to cancel or make amendments to your Living Will, at the point of your death, the document is no longer valid. The only exception to that, is if the directive provides specific instructions regarding organ donation, or autopsy.
A Living Will does not allow for estate planning.
There really is never an easy way to go about these things, emotionally end of life planning can be very hard, forcing us to face up to a time when we will not be here.
Negative feelings associated with it are perfectly normal.
The consequences of not having a Living Will however, can be incredibly difficult for family members struggling to understand what your end of life wishes may be.Leave a reply