You may have thought about planning for the succession of your wealth when you pass away. Perhaps you established a trust or executed a will. However, many people overlook living wills during the estate planning process. While a last will and testament directs the probate court to distribute your possessions, a living will informs medical providers about your end-of-life wishes.
Living wills are used while the maker is still alive. They are especially important considering advancements in medical technology meant to keep terminally ill patients alive. Since the federal Patient Self-Determination Act of 1991, nursing homes, hospitals, and home healthcare agencies have been required to relay information about living wills to patients. If you are considering your options for living wills in St. Charles, talk to a lawyer. An experienced attorney can help give you peace of mind for the future.
What is a Living Will?
Living wills are also known as advanced healthcare directives. When patients become incapacitated or are terminally ill and unresponsive, living wills communicate how medical professionals should administer or withhold treatment. A person must be at least 18 to adopt a living will. Additional requirements for a living will include the following:
- The document must be in writing and dated
- The maker must be of sound mind
- The maker must sign the living will with two unrelated witnesses who are not beneficiaries and are not responsible for the maker’s healthcare expenses
- The maker cannot be pregnant when the living will takes effect
- Once the maker is permanently unconscious, incapacitated, and close to death, the living will goes into effect
Living wills differ from powers of attorney, where a named person makes decisions for a patient’s medical care. When a healthcare power of attorney and a living will are in place, the representative named in a power of attorney must adhere to the living will. A knowledgeable lawyer in St. Charles could help create an end-of-life plan that includes a living will.
Specifics of a Living Will in St. Charles
Life support actions can be specific. A living will may discuss respirators and feeding tubes, whether 911 responders should perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and whether the patient will accept medications, surgery, blood transfusions, or kidney dialysis.
Patients may wish to consider whether nutrition, hydration, or antibiotics should be withdrawn. Chemotherapy can be stopped or continued under the provisions of a living will. A local attorney could ensure a living will considers every possible scenario.
Pain Management is Presumed
Even if patients do not wish to receive life-prolonging treatments, they will be given medication to control pain unless they specify in a living will that they do not want it. Most patients opt for the pain to be controlled in their final days.
Can You Revoke a Living Will?
Makers of living wills who are legally competent can revoke them by destroying them or creating updated ones. Physicians and family members should receive copies of the current living will to ensure the patient’s wishes are upheld.
Discuss Living Wills with a St. Charles Attorney
Estate planning comprises many documents that protect your wishes and provide for your loved ones’ futures after you pass away. Living wills in St. Charles allow you to make medical decisions when you can no longer communicate your wishes.
Your estate decisions are crucial to preserving everything you have built and ensuring a peaceful medical process. You may have executed a last will and testament, but choosing how much intervention you want at the end is also important. Contact an attorney today to discuss these crucial estate planning tools.