Living Will Recommendations

by John Cromwell

Medical technology allows individuals to live longer. However, some people may not want to receive certain treatments, believing the resulting quality of life in those circumstances would make a longer life a burden instead of a blessing. Living wills allow a person to dictate what treatment she wants to receive if incapacitated. These documents deal with issues that are literally life and death; therefore, there are certain considerations you should make when preparing a living will.

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A living will is not actually a type of will. Wills deal with the disposal of property after a person dies. Living wills focus on what happens in a medical emergency when a person is incapacitated. A living will defines what medical treatment the drafter wants to receive in certain situations. This document can appoint a representative to make medical decisions for the drafter if, and only if, the drafter is permanently unconscious or terminally ill. The representative is required to make medical decisions based on the living will. For additional coverage, you may also want to grant someone durable power-of-attorney. This allows the representative to make medical decisions any time the grantor cannot do so, not just in cases of terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness.


The requirements for drafting a living will vary by state. In general, the drafter is required to sign the will in the presence of two witnesses who also sign the living will. The drafter might need to get the living will notarized by a notary public or both witnessed by two people and notarized. To determine the relevant drafting standards for your state, consult with a local legal aid clinic or attorney.


When drafting a living will, you should consider a variety of different scenarios and what you want to happen to you in those cases. Begin by assessing how comfortable you want to be and how you want others to treat you. When thinking about the comfort issue, consider how much mobility you would require, how much help you would be willing to accept and other similar concerns. Once you have reflected on those questions, determine what care you want or do not want and include those preferences in the living will. You may want to review living will templates, available online, to assist you in considering all possibilities.

Selecting a Representative

Choosing the right representative in your living will is important because this is the person who will make key medical decisions for you. This representative may be called on to argue with your family members and go to court to ensure your wishes are met. While a living will is legally binding, it is still subject to interpretation. So there may be instances where families could go to court if they believe the representative is interpreting the will incorrectly. Also, the representative will need to be able to follow your wishes, even if it results in your eventual death.


Once the living will has been prepared, tell your family and friends about it. The living will is only useful if it can be accessed in a medical emergency, so the more people who know about it, the better. Discuss the content of the living will with your relatives and friends. This way they can know what your issues are which, hopefully, would make things easier in an emergency situation. Also, be sure to make several copies of the living will available. Hospitals and care centers may require a copy of the living will upon, or shortly after, admittance.