As a part of your estate plan, you probably have already created a last will and testament, often just called a will, which details what happens to your assets when you are gone. There is another important document that should be a part of your estate plan as well, with a similar name but a completely different purpose: the living will.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will is a legal document that states the treatment you want if you are incapacitated or mentally unable to make medical decisions for yourself. If you live in Washington State, you have two document options for putting your medical care wishes in writing: a Health Care Directive (now usually called a living will) and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
The conditions of the living only go into effect if a doctor confirms that your condition is terminal, or two doctors confirm that you are in a permanently unconscious state. However, you must be at least 18 years old and mentally stable to create a living will.
Instructions That May Be Included in a Living Will
There may come a time in which you are severely ill or injured and unable to make choices about the kind of healthcare you want. For example, you may wish for certain life-saving measures to be taken, or you may wish to avoid a prolonged treatment period in which your quality of life could suffer. Religious convictions may also play a part in your healthcare choices. Whatever your reasons, you can state your wishes in this document. Some examples of health care choices you may include in your living will include:
- Do not resuscitate (DNR). Including this in your will means that doctors will not use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or other life-saving techniques, including chest compressions, mouth-to-mouth or supplemental oxygen, breathing tubes, electric shock, or medications meant to restart a stopped heart.
- Artificial feeding or hydration. These are methods to deliver nutrients or water to patients who cannot eat or drink by themselves. Feeding tubes are placed into the body via the nose, mouth, veins, or directly into the stomach or intestines.
- Medication. You may opt to decline certain or all types of medications. For example, you may only wish for medication which eases pain and suffering but not antibiotics, chemotherapy, or other life-prolonging medications.
- Other procedures or medical care. You may be as broad or specific as you wish to include or exclude your desire for any other particular procedures or techniques such as dialysis or blood transfusions.
In order for a living will to be considered valid and used for care, you must first sign and date it, and then you must supply a copy to your doctor. You’ll also want to keep a copy with your other estate documents, and notify a family member or trusted friend of the location.
Get Help With Your Living Will
While you don’t need an attorney to have a living will created for healthcare, having a professional review this document as a part of your overall estate plan is a good idea. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we have over two decades of experience helping our clients ensure that their last wishes are respected. When you’re ready to document your end-of-life wishes, you can reach out to us and arrange a private consultation at our law office in Bellevue at (425) 460-0550.