August 18, 2020
Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Estate planning terms can be confusing. That is certainly true of a living will, which sounds like it should be similar to a last will but is actually something very different. Someday, an injury or disease may affect your mind to the point that you can no longer communicate with doctors or family members regarding your treatment. A living will informs your loved ones and your health care provider of the treatments that you do or do not want to receive in this scenario.
How Is a Living Will Different From a Last Will?
A last will only takes effect when you die and describes what you want to happen to your property following your death. A living will describes what you want to happen to yourself if you become incapacitated and therefore unable to make decisions or communicate your wishes to your doctor. It also goes by the terms advance directive and health care directive, which may be less confusing terms.
When Does a Living Will Take Effect?
A living will only takes effect under a specific set of circumstances: You must be alive but unable to communicate and/or incompetent to make your own medical decisions. There are many reasons this could happen. You could develop dementia due to a neurodegenerative disease or go into a coma due to a traumatic brain injury. Once a living will goes into effect, it remains effective until you either recover your faculties, meaning that you no longer need it because you can make your own decisions again, or you die, meaning that there is no longer any reason for you to receive medical treatment.
Do You Need a Living Will if You Have a Health Care Proxy?
If you have a health care power of attorney, you have already designated someone as a health care proxy who can make medical decisions for you in the event that you are no longer able to. If you have absolute confidence in this person’s decision-making ability, you may not need a living will. However, if you have strong feelings about certain end-of-life decisions, it may be a good idea to have a living will in addition to a health care proxy to be absolutely sure your wishes are respected. The decision-making powers of your health care proxy do not extend to overturning or contradicting your living will. An advance directive has precedence because it expresses your own wishes.