Living wills are far more common today than they were just a few years ago. If you’ve traveled very far at all into adulthood, someone at some point has surely said to you: “You NEED to have a living will.” But do you really know the purpose of a living will?
In the broadest terms, a living will lays out your wishes, generally regarding medical care, in the case of severe incapacitation or a terminal condition. It clearly spells out your wishes before you are rendered unable to make decisions and articulate those wishes. It is, fundamentally, an act of love.
More specifically, a living will is a formal legal document that contains advance directives concerning your medical-care preferences should you become unable to make your own decisions owing to serious injury, coma, dementia, or late-stage terminal illness. It provides legal guidance for caregivers, doctors, and other medical staff.
Living wills can be fairly general or very specific. But if they are too general, they can create confusion and conflict between your loved ones and the medical personnel. That’s just one reason to engage the services of an attorney with experience in drawing up living wills.
At bottom, the purpose of a living will is to remove from your loved ones the burden of having to make agonizing, often guilt-laden, decisions about your medical care. It isn’t only about your getting what you want. It is, more importantly, about sparing your family from having to make tough decisions at an already highly stressful and emotional time.
The more recent trend in living wills is away from a primary narrow focus on medical treatments and procedures. The aim now is to incorporate more emphasis on, for example, religious concerns, personal goals and values, and health outcomes. This would include pain-management wishes and grooming preferences, as well as emotional support and funeral/memorial plans.
A well-crafted living will states clearly and fully what you want and do not want when you can no longer make your own decisions – so that your loved ones won’t have to do it for you.
The trend now is toward online cookie-templates that allow you to create your own living will. But experts advise against going the DIY route because too many things can go wrong, from vague or inaccurate wording to omitting some of the requisite formalities.
Another reason it’s so important to consult an attorney with expertise in this area is that there are just too many matters involved and a host of tough decisions to be made. Following are just some of the things you’ll need to consider in creating a living will:
Perhaps the most common and most critical decisions are those involving resuscitation and intubation. If your heart stops beating, do you want to be resuscitated? And if you can’t eat normally, do you want to be tube fed? So you need to make sure, if you decide in the negative, that your living will has carefully crafted do-not-resuscitate (DNR) and do-not-intubate (DNI) clauses.
There’s a lot to consider. So don’t neglect discussions with your family and friends, your doctor, and your attorney.At Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia, we are specialists in estate planning, especially with respect to estate tax and gift tax. Our goal is to help you protect and preserve your assets and facilitate a smooth, effective transfer. Just call us at (703) 492-9955 or contact us using our contact form for more information.