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Education

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will, also known as a health care directive, allows you to specify your wishes regarding healthcare in the event you become terminally ill and are unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself. You can instruct your doctor to use, or not to use, life-sustaining measures. Living Wills created on EstateGuidance.com also allow you to create a Healthcare Power of Attorney. A Healthcare Power of Attorney enables you to appoint one or more individuals to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you become unable to do so yourself.

Who needs a Living Will?

A Living Will is used to let your loved ones and medical professionals know what life-sustaining procedures, if any, you would like at the end of your life. Accordingly, anyone of the following should create a Living Will:

  • Anyone who has strong opinions about the medical care they receive
  • Senior citizens
  • Anyone who's concerned about their end of life medical care
  • Individuals that have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses, as well as people who are worried about losing their cognitive ability

How do I make my Living Will legally valid and enforceable?

You will need to sign your Living Will (Advance Directive) in the presence of at least two witnesses. Your witnesses should be at least 19 years old. Additionally, your witnesses should not be:

  • Your selected Healthcare Agent
  • Your attending physician
  • An employee, owner, or operator of your healthcare provider
  • Financially responsible for your healthcare
  • An employee of your life or health insurance provider
  • Related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Entitled to any part of your estate

In order to ensure the validity of your Living Will, we recommend signing the document in front of your two witnesses and a notary public. At the time of signing, the notary should complete the Acknowledgement of Notary Public form (attached to the end of your Living Will).

Initial and date the bottom of each page. Sign and date the last page of your Living Will while your witnesses and the notary watch. Your witnesses should also sign in the designated areas of the signature page to your Living Will. They should state that they understand this document serves as your Living Will.

When does my Living Will go into effect?

The Living Will does not become effective until your attending physician certifies that you are incapacitated and are unable to make and communicate healthcare decisions for yourself.

How is a Living Will different from a Last Will and Testament?

A Last Will and Testament allows you to direct how you would like your property to be distributed at the end of your life. A Living Will allows you to make your wishes regarding end of life care known in the event you are unable to do so at such time.

Can I change or revoke my Living Will?

You can always amend or revoke your Living Will with a signed and dated document. You should communicate such change or amendment to anyone that has received a copy of your Living Will. However, the easiest way to revoke a Living Will is to simply create a new one. Your new Living Will should include language that reflects your desire to revoke any previously executed Living Wills. Remember to distribute copies of your new Living Will to any parties who had possession of the previous version.

Is a Healthcare Power of Attorney the same as a Living Will?

A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to designate a person, commonly known as a Health Care Agent, to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so for yourself. EstateGuidance.com gives you the option to create a Living Will with or without a Health Care Power of Attorney.

How do I select a healthcare agent?

Your healthcare agent should be a trusted friend or family member who is at least 19 years old. Additionally, your Healthcare Agent should not be:

  • Your attending physician
  • An employee, owner, or operator of your healthcare provider
  • Financially responsible for your healthcare
  • An employee of your life or health insurance provider

How does pregnancy affect my Living Will?

States vary in how they treat Living Wills in the event you are pregnant at the time of becoming terminally ill. Most states will disregard previously stated desires to refuse life sustaining treatment if it is possible that the fetus could survive and disregarding such desires would not cause unreasonable pain and suffering.

Can I state my organ and tissue donation preferences in my Living Will?

Yes, the Living Will document allows you to state whether or not you want to be an organ and tissue donor. You can also indicate if you have a preference regarding how you would like your organs and tissues to be used. Donated organs and tissues can be used in the following ways:

  • Transplantation. Organs and tissues are used for life-saving and life enhancing transplants. The organs and tissues that are commonly used for this purpose are the heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, lungs, small bowel, eyes, corneas, heart valves, bones, and skin.
  • Therapy. Organs and tissues are used in the development of pharmaceuticals to control and treat the effects of various diseases.
  • Medical Research. Organs and tissues can be used in studies aimed at curing life-altering or fatal diseases.
  • Education. Organs and tissues can be used in the educational setting to advance scientific and medical knowledge.

If you would like to be an organ donor, in addition to declaring your wishes in your living will and sharing your wishes with your family, you should also register with your state’s organ donation registry. You can also learn more about organ and tissue donation by visiting Donate Life at donatelife.net.