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Issues to Consider Before Creating a Living Will

Estate planning is a critical step in ensuring that your wishes are honored, especially when it comes to medical decisions. A living will is a powerful document that allows you to articulate your preferences for medical treatment if you become unable to communicate. With that said, before creating a living will, it’s essential to consider various issues to ensure that your directives align with your values and beliefs. 

Experienced estate planning lawyers can help ensure that your living will aligns with all the applicable laws and addresses any specific challenges in your individual circumstances.

What is a Living Will?

A living will, also known as an advance directive or healthcare directive, is a legal document that outlines an individual’s preferences for medical treatment and interventions in the event they become unable to communicate or make decisions about their healthcare. This document specifically addresses future situations where someone may face terminal illness, a persistent vegetative state, or other conditions that render them incapable of expressing their wishes.

Key features of a living will include:

  • Medical Treatment Preferences: A living will typically specifies the types of medical treatments you may wish to receive or avoid. This may include decisions about resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, pain management, and other life-sustaining measures.
  • End-of-Life Decisions: Living wills often address end-of-life decisions, such as whether the individual wants to be kept alive through artificial means in certain circumstances or whether they prefer a more natural approach, allowing for a peaceful and natural death.
  • Organ Donation: Some living wills include provisions regarding organ donation. You can express your preferences about donating organs or tissues for transplantation.
  • Cultural and Religious Considerations: Living wills may also take into account your cultural and religious beliefs, ensuring that medical decisions align with your values and principles.
  • Appointment of a Healthcare Proxy: In addition to or in conjunction with a living will, you may appoint a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney for healthcare. This person is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. 

Challenges in Creating a Living Will

Interpretation Issues

Living wills may not cover every possible medical scenario, leading to interpretation challenges for healthcare providers and family members. Unforeseen medical circumstances may arise, requiring interpretation of the document’s intent.

Potential for Ambiguity

The use of vague or ambiguous language in a living will can create uncertainty. Terms like “quality of life” or “extraordinary measures” may be subject to different interpretations by healthcare professionals, family members, and legal authorities.

Changing Preferences

Your values and preferences may evolve over time, potentially leading to misalignment between the living will’s directives and your current wishes. Regular reviews and updates are essential to address such changes.

Inaccessible Documents

If the living will isn’t easily accessible during a medical emergency, healthcare providers may make decisions without paying attention to your expressed preferences. It’s necessary to make sure that your family members and healthcare proxies have immediate access to the document.

Family Disagreements

Family members may hold differing opinions regarding medical decisions outlined in the living will. Disagreements among family members can lead to stress and potential conflicts during critical moments.

Legal Compliance

Living wills must comply with state-specific laws, and these laws can vary. Ensuring that the document adheres to legal requirements in the jurisdiction where it will be used is essential for its validity and enforceability. This makes it important to retain the services of professionals while creating a living will.

Healthcare Provider Awareness

Healthcare providers may not always be aware of the existence of a living will, leading to decisions being made without reference to the individual’s expressed preferences. Educating healthcare providers about the document is essential.

Emergency Situations

In emergency situations, there may be limited time to consult the living will, especially if the document is not immediately accessible. Quick decisions may need to be made without the benefit of explicit guidance.

Emotional Considerations

Family members tasked with implementing the directives in a living will face emotional challenges, especially if they must make difficult end-of-life decisions on behalf of a loved one.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Living wills may not cover unforeseen events or advancements in medical treatments. Individuals may not have anticipated certain medical possibilities when creating the document.

Factors to Consider Before Drafting a Living Will

Drafting a living will is a significant step in ensuring that your healthcare preferences are honored in the event you cannot communicate them yourself. Before creating a living will, you should consider the following factors to ensure that your document accurately reflects your wishes:

  • You should gain a comprehensive understanding of life-sustaining measures, resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, and pain management. 
  • You should consider appointing a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney. Discuss your preferences with them, and ensure they are willing to uphold your wishes.
  • Clearly articulate your preferences for medical treatments, specifying under what conditions you would want or not want certain interventions. Avoid vague terms that may lead to interpretation challenges.
  • You should take into account your cultural and religious beliefs when making decisions about medical treatments. 
  • Make sure that your living will is easily accessible in case of a medical emergency. It is best to provide copies to family members, your healthcare proxy, and relevant healthcare providers. 
  • A knowledgeable attorney can help you anticipate unforeseen medical circumstances and consider how your living will might apply in such situations. 

Professionally drafted living wills can be immensely helpful for individuals who want to ensure that their healthcare preferences are clearly articulated and legally binding.

Empower Your Healthcare Choices with Forever Estate Plan

Take control of your future health decisions and ensure your wishes are honored with Forever Estate Plan. Our professional team is dedicated to creating personalized living wills that reflect your unique values and preferences. We can make sure that your living will is in sync with other estate planning documents, such as a healthcare power of attorney or a comprehensive estate plan in a seamless manner. To set up your consultation, call (803) 792-0793 or reach us online