By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
January 12, 2016
Why Is a Living Will Important?
No one enjoys thinking about the possibility of being diagnosed with a terminal illness. But as we near the end of our lives, the likelihood of coming down with an incurable condition increases.
If you find yourself in these unfortunate circumstances, you don’t want your loved ones to be put in the devastating position of not knowing your wishes – or worse, verbally telling them what you want without formalizing those wishes in a legal document so that they are powerless to make it happen.
In order to prevent this from occurring, it is important to look into advanced care directives such as a power of attorney, healthcare surrogate and a living will. Often misunderstood, a living will differs from a Last Will and Testament in that it is solely designed to express your medical wishes regarding your desire whether or not to be kept alive artificially on life support.
If you want to designate a Health Care Surrogate – someone who can make any necessary health care decisions during your incapacity – you will generally have to create a separate, written document that names and authorizes a trusted person to make those medical decisions for you.
Thinking about the future and planning ahead for a terminal condition can be a crucial step to ensure that your wishes are known and carried out. Many people – especially as they age –will find themselves in a hospital or with a condition that requires medical care. If you are lucky, you will still be aware and competent enough to voice your concerns and wishes, but this is not always the case.
If medical professionals need to act quickly in order to save your life and you are unconscious, or if your ability to make decisions is permanently damaged, a living will can make sure you have a say in what happens to you. It also ensure that your family doesn’t fight over the issue as well, since they may likely will be left wondering what you would have wanted otherwise.
With a living will, you can decide whether you want life prolonging procedures – extraordinary or heroic measures – withheld or withdrawn if you have a terminal condition. Life prolonging procedures can include resuscitation if your heart stops beating, a breathing machine if you can no longer breathe, appropriate nutrition and hydration, medication to ease pain and suffering, or any other form of artificial life support.
It all depends on your personal preference as to what you want to happen if you end up with an incurable illness, disease, or injury. If you don’t have a living will, though, your wishes may not be carried out. So creating a living will not only will make your wishes clear, it can also save your family from undue stress.
If you want to create a living will, the best way to do this is to work with a Florida estate planning attorney that you trust. You will need to create a voluntary, written document where you declare your wishes, and then the document must be signed by you and two other witnesses. The witnesses can’t be a parent, spouse, child, beneficiary, or anyone responsible for your medical care.
Once your living will has been signed, it’s a good idea to let your doctor and your hospital know about your living will and even put a copy of it in your medical records so that it’s accessible.
If you wish to revoke your living will at any time due to a number of factors – age, health condition, family situation, income, life insurance, personal beliefs, or your situation simply changes – you can do so by signing and dating a revocation letter, executing a new document or by physically destroying the original document. Then you can work with a knowledgeable lawyer to create a new document. Alternatively, a will can be changed or updated, but you need to follow official guidelines for it to be valid.
Planning for the future and thinking about what you might want done if you have a terminal condition can be emotional and scary. But it’s also necessary if you want to make sure that your wishes are carried out. If you need help with creating a living will, contact a Florida estate planning attorney today to get started. We can help.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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