A living will, also known as an advance medical directive, is a document that allows you to make decisions about your medical care and treatment in the event you become severely ill and are being kept alive by life support systems. It can bring peace of mind to you and to your family because it explains in advance what kind of medical care you want to receive when you cannot speak for yourself.
Making your living will
Most people look to an estate planning attorney to create their living wills. This is often the preferable way to go, primarily because estate planning attorneys understand the specific laws in your state. They can also help answer questions you may have and represent you in the event of a contested will.
If you want to know how to create a living will and decide to prepare your own, you will want to be sure you are following your state's requirement and using the proper forms. Living will forms can be found at:
- local hospitals
- senior centers and care centers
- your state's medical association
- The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
You can also make a living will and health care power of attorney using one of the many online legal websites or with a variety of software programs. These types of programs can easily guide you on how to construct a living will, making it easy to create a living will on your own. Just remember that your document, when completed, will need to be signed, witnessed, and maybe even notarized in order to be legally enforceable.
What to put in your living will
A living will leaves written instructions as to how you want certain types of care to be given or even not to be given. For example, many people include a do not resuscitate or DNR order in their living wills because they don't wish to be kept alive on a ventilator. Note that your state specific form will request your feelings about various types of care that may be difficult to think about or even consider. They may include having you make decisions about:
- Providing food and water intravenously if you are unconscious
- Life-prolonging medical care such as transfusions, CPR, dialyses, use of a respirator, and even life prolonging surgeries
- Palliative care (reducing pain without curing) if you choose to forego life-prolonging treatments
For more information on estate plans and wills, visit the Protective Learning Center.