The Necessity of a Living Will

by David Montoya
A professional can help write a living will that conforms to state law.

A professional can help write a living will that conforms to state law.

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While no one has the legal necessity to create a living will, this document may be personally necessary if you want to provide specific directions to health care providers regarding end-of-life care. Living wills outline specific directions for health care officials to follow in case you become incapacitated and can no longer communicate your medical desires. Consult an attorney or online legal document provider for help drafting a living will that complies with your state's pertinent laws.

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Living wills speak on behalf of patients who can no longer communicate due to the severity of their medical circumstances. Common issues covered in living wills include "do not resuscitate" orders, the usage of a respirator, mechanical hydration, mechanical nutrition and dialysis. You can craft a living will to meet your specific needs based on your belief system, dignity as well as financial practicality.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

Unfortunately living wills cannot cover every medical situation. As such, living wills often assign a power of attorney for health care. This person, also known as a health care proxy, makes medical decisions for you in instances when the living will does not give clear directions. Choose a health care proxy carefully, preferably someone who understands your values and how you want to be treated during end-of-life care. Living wills can name more than one health care proxy as well.

Legal Hurdles and Practical Concerns

A living will must conform to state laws to legally bind medical officials. Common legal requirements include signatures and whether or not the document has been notarized. Again, the laws controlling living wills vary from state to state. This may require you to seek help from a living will professional to ensure the document holds up to state laws. Other concerns include making easily accessible copies for family members to find (placing copies with your attorney or in a safety deposit box, for example) and distributing the document to your health care providers.

Benefits of a Living Will

Besides giving you power over your medical care, living wills also have several practical benefits. First, living wills take stressful health care decisions out of your family's hands during an already difficult time. This, in turn, can prevent the long-term effects of having to make emotionally difficult medical decisions. Clear directions can save your family thousands of dollars in medical bills since end-of-life care can last years in some situations. Most important, a living will gives you power to control your own fate.