Do You Know This About Your Living Will?

Updated: May 22

You have probably heard of a last will and testament, but how much do you know about living wills? A living will can be just as important if not more important than a last will and testament.

Like many people doing estate planning, you will complete a health care proxy. Health care proxies and living wills are similar documents. They are each advance directives - that is, documents that give another individual the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Living will and health care proxies can be seen as a roadmap for how you wish to be cared for in the event that you are unable to make vital decisions.

A Few Things You May Not Know About a Living Will

1. No agent is needed!

Unlike many other documents required in estate planning, you don’t need to designate an agent to make the decisions. A living will can simply be a document that identifies your health care wishes.

2. It’s only useful if the right people have it!

Make sure your doctor and medical team have access to the document. It’s also helpful to review it with your medical team as there can be many medical terms that you may not be familiar with. If the document does identify an agent, be sure that that individual has a copy and is familiar with it.

3. No healthcare proxy? No problem!

While it is better to have a healthcare proxy to enforce this document, it’s not prohibitive. Your medical team will adhere to your living will and your expressed wishes regardless of your healthcare proxy.

4. A living will is different from a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)! A DNR is only able to be prepared by a physician and is often only signed in the hospital. Very rarely is this document prepared ahead of time.

5. It’s easy to find a free-living will on the internet, but buyer beware!

While there is always the option of finding free generic legal documents online, be cautious when signing and executing the documents. You want to know exactly what you're signing and understand the implications of the document. At Hudson Standard, when you use an attorney or service to create the document we record all online sessions so that you will have a video reviewing the documents, and there will be less chance for your documents to be misinterpreted, prepared incorrectly, or executed incorrectly.

Living wills are relatively new: they have really only been mainstream since the 1980s. We’re still finding new applications and new evidence of their importance. As medical technology advances, so does the need for a living will. If you are incapacitated by a serious trauma at a young age, the current technology can keep you living for decades. Depending on your functionality, however, this may not be your wish. You are never too young for a living will or the important ways it can protect your health care and end-of-life wishes.

If you’d like to learn more about #healthcare proxies, #living wills, or other important documents associated with estate planning, join our webinar on July 24th at 11 am-12:30 pm. The webinar will cover medical terminology, legality, and a number of other critical issues related to your health care wishes and living wills.

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