Why You Need a Living Will: The Purpose of a Living Will

fortpitt in Estate Planning 19 October, 2022

A living will is a legal document known by various terms, including an advance directive, health care directive, or a declaration regarding life-prolonging purposes. This document is something that nearly everyone should have since it’s often used in sudden or unexpected circumstances.

What Is a Living Will?

If you’re terminally ill or injured and unconscious, the purpose of a living will is to give directions to your care provider about the medical treatment you want to receive.

It’s important to note that a living will is not a last will and testament. A last will and testament is what most people think of when discussing a general will. Last will and testaments become active after one’s death and determine the distribution of property. A living will becomes active when someone is still alive but unable to communicate their wishes.

What Is the Main Purpose of a Living Will?

A living will allows you to declare what kind of medical care you’d like to receive (or forgo) if you’re terminally ill or permanently unconscious and can’t decide on your treatment. Without a living will, your doctor or a third party, such as a parent, spouse, or child, will be in charge of making these decisions for you. These people may not know your desires or can choose not to follow them without the legal binding afforded by a living will.

Living wills are especially beneficial for those with a terminal illness, but every individual should consider having this document to account for unexpected life-threatening injuries. If you do become incapacitated, critical medical decisions can increase the strain on your family members. A living will eases the decision-making process for you and your loved ones.

What Is Included in a Living Will?

In your living will, you’ll specify if you want:

  • To receive palliative care or care to decrease pain and suffering.
  • To receive tube feeding/artificial hydration and for how long.
  • Extraordinary life-sustaining measures taken to keep you alive, like CPR.
  • To be kept on a ventilator or receive dialysis and for how long.
  • To donate your organs, bodily tissues, or entire body after death.
  • To receive an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
  • To handle your remains through cremation, burial, or another means.

A living will can also appoint a health care proxy, which is an individual who will make medical decisions for the incapacitated person when they are unable to. Your health care proxy can step in to make any medical decisions your living will does not cover.

How to Write a Living Will

Requirements for a living will depend on your state. Some states have standardized forms to fill out for a living will, while others allow you to prepare your own customized document.

Many people choose to go through a lawyer to write their living will. However, if you want to avoid the fees associated with using an attorney, you can look into estate planning software. These programs allow you to create a living will, a last will and testament, designate a power of attorney, and much more.

During the writing process, you may find it helpful to consult with close family members or friends who would be responsible for overseeing your care. You can discuss your plans with them, so they know your wishes. These individuals may also provide additional insight into particular aspects of the will.

A doctor can offer medical expertise to help you choose your preferences. They will walk you through different treatment options and discuss the pros and cons of each so that you have the background information to make an educated decision about your care.

How Long Does a Living Will Last?

A living will lasts as long as you want or until your death. If you decide to cancel it or make significant changes, you can consult with your family members, doctors, and lawyer to notify them of the adjustments.

Who to Share Your Living Will With

After you make a living will, you may desire to keep it private, but it’s crucial to share it with a few parties. You should give copies to:

  • Your doctor.
  • Your hospital file.
  • Your health care proxy.
  • Your immediate family.

In other words, your living will should be easily accessible to anyone who may need to make a decision on your behalf.

Living Will vs. Living Trust

While working through the estate planning process, you may also hear the term “living trust.” This legal agreement is somewhat different than a living will. A living will specifies the medical treatment you would like to receive if you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions.

A living trust, on the other hand, deals with your assets. If you are incapacitated, the person you appoint as trustee essentially acts as the new owner of your financial resources and can make decisions on your behalf.

Consult With Fort Pitt Capital Group

While considering such important documents relating to the end of your life, think about getting your finances in order with Fort Pitt Capital Group. We’ll help secure your finances, and, in the event you become incapacitated, we’ll ensure all of your financial wishes are fulfilled. Learn more about our services today, or connect with us to discuss your options.

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