Any legal document that outlines how relevant medical decisions will be carried out in the future if and when someone is rendered incapacitated is known as an advance directive. A lot of people draw out advance directives as sensible preparation for the future. This preparation serves not only the self but benefits the family and loved ones for future medical possibilities. A living will is one such advance directive. Understanding now what a living will is might help you decide if you would likewise want or need this kind of preparation for yourself and your loved ones.
What is a Living Will?
A living will is a legally executed written document that specifies what medical treatments you wish to have done on you, as well as those that you would like to forego. You are doing this in advance as you anticipate the possibility that you might be incapacitated to signify or carry out the medical decisions in the event of illness or accident. A living will likewise outlines your preferences for palliative care, organ donation, aggressive medical interventions, or the individual who will lead in the decision-making on your behalf. A living will might also stipulate IF you wish not to be resuscitated or kept on life-support in the event of brain death.
When drawing out a living will, there are several things you need to consider.
- Would you want to be hooked on to medical assistance equipment such as dialysis machines or ventilators to keep you alive?
- Do you wish to be resuscitated via CPR if your heart or breathing stops?
- Will you agree to fluid treatment (like IV dextrose) or tube feeding (through a naso-gastric tube to your stomach) or both if you are unable to eat or drink?
- Do you want palliative care (comfort care) to manage pain and other symptoms?
- Do you wish to make an organ donation after you die?
Take note that opting out of aggressive medical treatment is not tantamount to refusing all types of medical intervention. You may still wish to receive comfort care treatments such as food, pain medicines, antibiotics, etc., just that you might be foregoing actual curative interventions.
Living Will and Last Will: The Difference
As discussed, a living will is one type of advance directive. It is a document specifying your healthcare directives in advance for your family or loved ones to carry out in case you become unable to express them yourself down the line. Living wills are executed in anticipation of terminal illness or life-threatening accidents. In this document, you can state if you wish to be revived or receive life-sustaining interventions.
In contrast, a last will and testament is a legally executed document that stipulates an individual’s final wishes related to his dependents and assets. In this document, you are basically leaving instructions as to how to distribute your assets after you die: to who or whom you want how much to go. You may leave your possessions to one individual or group (as a donation to a charity or a non-profit) or distributed among many. Likewise, if applicable, you could specify your wishes pertaining to matters like custody of your dependents, who and how you wish to manage your accounts or financial interests. You can enlist the assistance of professional estate planners for this, especially for substantial or complex assets.
Planning your estate not only maps out the disbursement of your assets but allows you to name your dependents’ custodians in the event of an untimely or accidental death. Estate planning will help diminish state taxes you will need to pay. But more importantly, it reduces the likelihood of conflict or strife among the surviving family members.
Advance Healthcare Directives: How to Ensure Your Wishes Are Carried Out
In essence, your living will is your advance directive for your future health care, executed as a legal document. A living will takes effect only if you are rendered incapacitated due to terminal disease or serious injury. It allows others to know what medical care you want.
When you have finalized your advance healthcare directives,
- Safe-keep the original documents.
- Furnish your physician with a copy.
- Provide your healthcare agent/s a copy. Keep track of who you’ve given copies to.
- Have a conversation with your family about your advance healthcare directives to ensure understanding and avoid future conflict.
- Carry a card that states that there are advance healthcare directives in effect, who your healthcare agent is, and where copies may be found.
Know that you can modify your advance directives at any time. Review your directives and make necessary adjustments, especially when your diagnosis, marital status, or assets have changed. It would likewise be good to revisit your directives every 10 or so years.