As a part of your estate plan, one of the things you should consider doing is setting up a living will. A living will is a legal document that lets other people know what your choices are for end-of-life treatment. It will also provide information on the kind of medical care you want if you cannot make those wishes known yourself.
You may have heard of a living will in the past without knowing it. This kind of will is also known as an advance directive and is extremely common in estate planning.
Who needs a living will?
Many people can benefit from a living will. Those who have terminal illnesses, are involved in car crashes or accidents, and are unconscious or who otherwise can no longer make their wishes known may benefit from having a living will in place.
What happens if you don’t have a living will?
If you don’t have a living will, then you will be leaving your medical decisions in the hands of your medical providers, your spouse, family members or others. The problem with this is that they may not know what your preferences are, so they could be more likely to make decisions that you would not have yourself.
Along with your living will, you can set up a health care agent who is specifically selected to make decisions on your behalf. For example, you may select to have your child (over 18) make your medical decisions if they have completed medical school or could decide to let a close friend make decisions for you if you have no other family you feel you can trust.
Your living will only needs to be used if you are involved in a life-threatening situation where you cannot make your own decisions. As long as you have the capacity to make your own decisions, medical providers should ask you to do so. In standard care procedures, doctors won’t look at your living will, so in those cases, you will want to let your medical provider know if there is someone to make decisions during that stay.