Does a Living Will Expire?

By Wayne Thomas

A living will provides you with the freedom to determine how medical decisions should be made in the event you become unable or unwilling to make them for yourself. The document also allows you to appoint a health care representative to act on your behalf to carry out these wishes. Although state laws can vary, living wills generally do not expire while you are alive, absent special circumstances or your express intent.

A living will provides you with the freedom to determine how medical decisions should be made in the event you become unable or unwilling to make them for yourself. The document also allows you to appoint a health care representative to act on your behalf to carry out these wishes. Although state laws can vary, living wills generally do not expire while you are alive, absent special circumstances or your express intent.

Living Wills

In most states, you are free to revoke a living will by simply communicating your intentions to your healthcare provider or attending physician. However, the document also can become ineffective if it is challenged and declared invalid by a court. For example, if you failed to follow the proper requirements under state law when you created the living will, such as not having the minimum number of witnesses, a court could rule it is invalid. Also, if you designated your spouse to be your health care representative, some states automatically remove her if you get divorced, unless you specifically provide otherwise in the document.

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The State of Ohio Health Care Power of Attorney

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Five Questions for a Living Will

A living will is a type of advanced directive; it is a legal document that informs your doctor and family members that you wish to withhold or withdraw certain medical treatments if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to express your wishes. It also enables your doctor or family to give informed consent to certain medical treatments.

Regulations and Limitations on a Living Will

A living will is a statement of intent in which the drafter declares how he wants to be treated medically, in case of a long terminal illness or accident. These declarations are meant to be used if the drafter becomes unable to communicate or make medical decisions. Living wills are regulated at the state level so standards vary. However, there are some consistent general principles that all states have adopted. It is strongly recommended that you consider using an online third-party legal document provider, a living will form provided by your state, or a local licensed attorney when preparing your living will.

Medical Power of Attorney Explanation

When you are competent to make your own medical decisions, your health care providers rely on you to help determine what treatments are best for you. But if you become unable to make your own health care decisions, the person you name in a health care power of attorney will work with health care providers in your stead. For example, if you name your sister as the agent to make your medical decisions in case you become incompetent, she will direct your medical care if you later develop dementia that makes you incapable of making your own health care decisions.

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