Some of our clients walk into our offices knowing that they want a living will. Others don’t exactly know what a living will is. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about living wills:
Is a will the same as a living will?
No, they have different purposes and are effective at different times; a will is effective after your death, but a living will applies while you are alive. You will probably want both a will and a living will.
What is the purpose of a living will?
A living will is meant to avoid unproductive end of life heroic measures if you do not want them. You are kept as comfortable as possible, but you tell doctors not to artificially extend your life with heroic measures.
When is a living will effective?
Your living will is effective at the very end of your life if you are terminal and unable to communicate with your doctors or you are in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state.
I have a medical power of attorney, do I still need a living will?
If you know that you don’t want your life artificially extended with medical heroics, then you probably want a living will too.
While your agent under your medical power of attorney can make this decision, it relieves a great burden from your agent’s shoulders if you make your own decision when you can. In addition, having a living will avoids family infighting.
Can my health care agent change my living will?
Your health care agent cannot change your living will or override your decision. Your agent steps up and makes decisions for you only if you haven’t already made the decision for yourself and cannot do so at the time the decision needs to be made.
If you have further questions about the living will, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.