When you arrive at a hospital emergency room or if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you will likely be asked whether you have a living will. Most people never think to create these advance directives until they need it. However, not having a living will can leave your family to make some very difficult decisions during an already stressful time. Our attorneys can help you decide whether you want to create a living will. Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about a living will.
Q. What is a Living Will?
A living will document is a form of advance directive, but one that is directed toward a specific set of medical concerns. Unlike advance directives for healthcare that allow you to designate a proxy to serve as your agent and make any decisions regarding your care, the living will directive provides a specific type of instruction focused on end-of-life care. This directive doesn’t deal with ongoing care for those who are expected to live for many months or years after incapacitation; it only deals with certain life-sustaining treatments.
Q. How Does a Living Will Work?
If you are ill or in an accident, will never recover, and can only remain alive with the help of a respirator or other life-sustaining options, the living will would provide caregivers with your preferences as to whether those treatments should be used to keep you alive. In most instances, the living will document is only called into effect in situations where you would die if such care is not provided. Because of this, it is one of the most uncomfortable subjects that any family ever addresses, but it is also one of the most vital. If you still have questions ask our Ashland estate planning attorney.
Q. What Can a Living Will Accomplish That the Last Will and Testament Cannot?
Most people don’t have living wills and part of that may be due to the name. It’s too easy to confuse these documents for the more traditional Last Will, but the two documents couldn’t be any more different in nature or effect. Your Last Will is an estate planning tool used to distribute assets when a testator dies. The living will, on the other hand, does nothing of the kind. It doesn’t deal with financial assets or even legacy concerns. It has one role — to express your sentiments about the types of life-sustaining treatment you are willing to receive when you are at death’s door.
Q. What Types of Provisions Can I Include in My Advance Directives?
Many types of medical treatment can be addressed in a living will or other advance directive. In addition to the previously-mentioned respirator, your advance directives should provide instructions about various medical treatments and procedures. Here are some examples that our estate planning attorneys have included for clients.
Medications can be controversial for some people. If you are opposed to the use of certain pills or medicines, it’s important to document those beliefs. Another big decision concerns food and water. Some people are opposed to being kept alive using feeding tubes. If you have strong feelings about this, then you should include that in your living will as well.
Q. Can I Refuse to Receive Blood Transfusions in My Living Will?
Blood transfusions can be an especially delicate subject for some religious groups, as there are certain religions that forbid the use of blood transfusions – even in life-threatening situations. If you’re incapacitated and need dialysis treatment, your living will can also help medical personnel know whether you want to receive that treatment.
Q. Is a Living Will the Same as a DNR?
Some people who simply don’t want to be resuscitated if they stop breathing or their hearts stop beating. Those wishes can only be respected if they’re made clear prior to the emergency, and are often included as part of a DNR (Do-Not-Resuscitate) order. If surgery is required to resuscitate you or sustain your life in some other way, it’s important for doctors to know your feelings on the subject. Unlike a living will, a DNR order is generally created after you have developed a significant chronic or terminal condition, and it is signed by a doctor.
If you have questions regarding advance directives or any other estate planning matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at The Potter Law Firm for a consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (704) 944-3245 (Charlotte, NC, or Huntersville, NC) or for individuals in Kentucky at (606) 324-5516 (Ashland, KY) or at (859) 372-6655 (Florence, KY).
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