Estate Planning - Living Wills

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A living will details your medical treatment preferences when you can no longer express your consent. This is different than a medical power of attorney which designates someone to make healthcare descisions. With a living will, you direct your physicians in advance to take certain courses of treatment. Thus, it is also referred to as an "advanced directive."

What are my options?

A Living Will handles end-of-life decisions. Namely, the specific question of whether someone wants to have “extreme life saving measures” taken or to allow for “comfort care.”

When does it take effect?

Much like a medical power of attorney, a living will or physician's directive becomes effective when you can no longer make medical decisions for yourself. If you can consent to treatment options, then your medical provider will follow your instructions.

Can I specify more than just end of life decisions?

You can specify specific treatment options / limitations / courses of actions you want to direct your physicians to take or not to take. However, generally, advanced directives control the decision to take extreme measures or to pass with comfort care.

Why have a living will?

A living will helps eliminate uncertainty for family members who will have to make tough decisions about your healthcare options. Below is a video regarding Terri Schaivo who did not have an advanced directive. Because of this, her parents and her husband fought over the course of treatment. Eventually, her husband, Michael Schaivo prevailed and Terri was disconnected from extraordinary life saving means. Had Ms. Schaivo had a living will, the complex legal battle fought by her parents and spouse could have been avoided.


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