The Importance of a Living Will

Living Will - April 6, 2020
Young loving couple standing close

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is an important health care document in estate planning as it provides clear and unambiguous directions of a person’s healthcare wishes at a time when they cannot speak for themselves. It avoids uncertainty when emotions are naturally high and where family members may have conflicting wishes. It is not a Testamentary Will, as it does not dispose of property or make bequests upon death. The Living Will is both a statement of a person’s wishes and a guide for family and healthcare providers.

Details of a Living Will

The  Living Will or Advance Directive allows a person the right to direct future medical services at a time when they are unable to speak with or consult with their doctor. The document provides instructions to healthcare providers in an extreme end-of-life situation when you are no longer able to make those decisions. In the Living Will, the person may direct the attending physician not to administer life-sustaining treatment or artificially provided nutrition and hydration. If such treatment has already started. the Living Will may provide that such treatment shall be withdrawn. You may also name a healthcare proxy or agent to help carry out your wishes. State laws vary regarding this and other documents you may want to have in place. You should contact your Provider Law Firm to discuss this and other estate planning needs.

Depending on state law, a person’s attending physician and a second physician may need to certify that the patient is terminally ill, permanently unconscious, or facing end-stage life conditions.  Under these circumstances, if a healthcare proxy or agent is named in the Living Will,  they can help see that the patient’s wishes are carried out. The healthcare proxy or agent should be someone who knows your wishes and is willing to see that those wishes are carried out.  It is important to keep this information updated and make sure that your wishes are known. The document may be amended or revoked.

Why have a Living Will now when you’re in good health?

People will often ask why a Living Will is necessary when they are in good health and do not have a family history of any serious illnesses or diseases. It is a document that, hopefully, is never needed but in the event that an unexpected catastrophic medical situation occurs it can alleviate uncertainty, disagreements among loved ones and ensure that the patient’s wishes are followed. We have all heard about situations where family members cannot agree on the wishes of the patient, leading to possible legal action regarding healthcare treatment decisions when there is no Living Will.

Many people are concerned about who makes the decision to either administer or withdraw or withhold treatment when they can’t make the decision for themselves.

Some years ago a case in Florida made national news concerning a young married woman who had been in a coma for a long time,  appeared would not recover and would remain in a permanent vegetative state. Her husband wanted to have the healthcare providers remove her from life-sustaining treatment, but her parents wanted the treatment continued. After protracted and expensive litigation, including political intervention, appeals and hearings in both federal and state courts, it was finally decided that the feeding tube could be removed. She passed away within a few weeks. This highlighted again issues related to pro-life versus right-to-die and the importance of estate planning even for young adults.

A Living Will is a very personal and important document that can avoid years of uncertainty and conflict as to what a person’s medical wishes might be. It allows the individual to dictate what their treatment and healthcare would be in this very extreme medical situation.

LegalShield provider lawyers are here to help with your Living Will

If you have any questions or concerns about creating a Living Will, please consult your lawyer. You also can discuss these and other issues with your doctor. In this time of widespread disease, it is a crucial document that needs to be completed to comply with state law, protect and ensure that an individual’s healthcare wishes are carried out while providing family and friends with clear and unambiguous directions in an end-of-life situation.

LegalShield Members can get help from a provider lawyer with a Living Will , without having to worry about the expense. Plans start at $24.95 a month and include valuable estate planning advice and documents, including a Will, at no extra charge.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and a lawyer for legal advice or assistance.

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