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When looking at the importance of having a will and leaving a legacy for your family, it is easy to overlook one important thing–you are still living and have a say-so in what happens to you and for you.
While many are advised to create a will to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes after they pass away, Toledo residents may not be aware that there are different categories of wills. Living wills are one of those types of wills. It might be an option for someone to consider if they want to leave directions for loved ones and medical care providers in case they are facing a life-threatening situation.
It is important to note that any authority granted by a living will ends when the person who made the document dies. There is the single exception that some living wills or powers of attorney give healthcare agents the power to make decisions about organ donation or autopsy. But, because those decisions must be made very soon after death, the authority is not long-lasting. Again, this is in sharp contrast to a regular last will and testament, which has no effect when the will-maker is alive but becomes legally binding at death.
A living will, or an advance directive, is a legal document that helps you control your medical care. It outlines what medical procedures you approve of to attempt to preserve your life and it provides instructions for your end-of-life care. With this document, you can control what happens to you should you not be able to actively voice your preferences for yourself.
For example, an unconscious patient facing a terminal illness may not be able to voice whether or not he or she would like life-sustaining treatment and their family members may also not know what that individual wants. A living will would provide guidance in that situation. It only comes into play when someone is unable to convey their own wishes — doctors do not consult the document if a life-threatening situation does not exist.
A living will should cover many medical procedures that would be common in life-threatening situations. Ventilation, dialysis and resuscitation through electric shock are just some examples of procedures that could be addressed, as well as whether would wish to donate their tissue or organs.
A living will is different from a healthcare proxy and ideally an individual should have both. A healthcare proxy identifies an individual who is allowed to take medical decisions on behalf of someone if he or she is unable to do so.
When someone is trying to get their estate planning documents together to provide guidance and directions for their heirs and beneficiaries, it is important to ensure that all the documents are in order. Knowing what documents are required can be complicated and consulting an experienced attorney might be beneficial in such situations.
How can you get a living will in place? Because of the legality and requirements, most people hire a probate lawyer to prepare their living will. We would love to help discuss a living will with you and help you identify what is best for you. Contact us today for a free consultation!