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What is a Living Will?

Could you imagine being in a situation where you can’t communicate the type of medical care you want to receive? There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to make your preferences known.

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When it comes to emergency treatment, time may be limited, so making every second count is crucial. By setting up a living will, you can indicate your preferences regarding the use of medical treatments in instances when you are unconscious. For instance, you can state whether you want to receive assisted breathing, be fed through a tube or undergo dialysis. Now, if you don’t have a living will, decisions about the medical care you receive will be made by your spouse or another family member. While they likely know you very well, they might not be aware of your desires in terms of medical care. This is especially true in cases where you have not left written directives for medical teams. With advance care planning, you can appoint someone to operate as your health care proxy. They can make decisions on your behalf and in alignment with your desires as indicated by your living will.

In your living will, you can indicate whether you want to donate your organs and tissues after you die. This decision is completely up to you, so feel free to be honest about your preferences without feeling any pressure. You can also express your desire to receive pain medication in your final hours while simultaneously refusing life-sustaining care. Follow your heart and express your true wishes in your living will. It’s the perfect opportunity to advocate for yourself in advance. Remember that an advance medical directive can help you make your needs known if medical professionals do not detect any brain activity. In the worst-case scenario, your living will can express your wishes in the event that you are expected to remain unconscious for the rest of your life. You can stipulate the type of care and level of medical treatment you want to receive in that situation. You can also indicate how long you want to receive said care and treatment.

Discuss your wishes with your proxy

As we mentioned, you can declare someone as your official health care proxy. By speaking with them, you can ensure that your wishes are adhered to. A durable power of attorney for health care can also name someone who can make decisions on your behalf. You can choose one or more alternatives in the event that your proxy is unable to fulfill the role for you. That way, no matter what, you can trust that there is someone who will act as your advocate if there are disagreements or questions about the care you receive.

How does a living will differ from a living trust?

A living trust focuses on what happens to the physical property and intangible assets of someone who is incapacitated. You’ll name a trustee who will then execute your wishes on your behalf if you lack the capacity to do so. The proxy has the legal authority to act on your behalf. A living will, on the other hand, expresses what you want to have happen to your person in circumstances where you cannot voice your wishes on your own. Ultimately, the most important thing for you to do is reflect on what matters to you the most. Think about your values and your wishes. By listening to your gut instincts, you can make sure you establish the type of care and treatment options you want to receive in difficult situations.

Plan in advance

You should look into whether advance care planning is covered by Medicare. It may be part of your annual wellness visit. Alternatively, if you have private health insurance, speak with your insurance provider and ask about coverage options. Take a moment to have a conversation with your medical providers. By speaking with them, you can learn about the types of decisions that may come up or what you can anticipate needing to cover in your living will. Your doctor can help you understand what your family may face.That way, you can address them in writing via your living will. You can even ask your health care proxy to come to the appointment with you for reassurance. As you make up your mind about the care you want to receive in dire circumstances, you should consider how important it is for you to be independent or self-sufficient.

Would you want to receive treatment that extends your life no matter the situation? Are there any circumstances under which you would no longer like to be treated? Would you want your medical team to pursue treatment only when a cure is likely? These are heavy questions, but they are important. You might even change your mind and feel differently about your answers as time goes on, at which point you can update your living will. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, but by planning ahead, you can ensure that you receive the medical care you truly want. This will help you avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve other people of having to make difficult decisions on your behalf. Also, each state has different requirements regarding living wills. In most cases, a form will need to be either signed by a witness or officially notarized. If you are a resident of more than one state, make sure you look into how each state deals with living wills.

If you feel more comfortable with the idea of receiving professional advice about living wills, you can ask a lawyer to assist you with the process of creating yours. For additional comfort, you can consider carrying a wallet-sized card that indicates the existence of advance directives. You can also include the name and number of your health care agent as well as the location of your living will.

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