A living will is an optional estate planning document. Most people want a living will because they don’t want to be hooked up to machines if they are in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state. It’s not fun to think about, but your action now can prevent a lot of suffering and keep peace in your family later. Here are the living will facts.
- A living will is typically part of a comprehensive estate plan.
- It’s an advanced medical directive, meaning that you make a decision now about a potential future situation.
- A living will is informed consent. In fact, it’s clear and convincing evidence of your intent.
- Terri Schiavo didn’t have her wishes in writing. She did NOT have a living will. Because her parents didn’t want life support disconnected she was kept alive, while brain dead, for 15 years.
- Your health care agent or family members cannot override your living will, even if they disagree with your decision.
- Let your loved ones know that you have a living will and where you keep it (and where you keep your other important documents).
- Consider the use of an online document storage system such as Docubank (www.docubank.com) so that your living will and other health care documents are always available.
- In addition to a living will, you also need a health care power of attorney and a HIPAA release.
- The health care power of attorney authorizes your chosen agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you cannot give informed consent.
- The HIPAA release authorizes medical personnel to communicate with your agent. For example, they may discuss whether you are in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state, making your living will effective.
- Advanced medical directives are informed consent and cannot be overridden by your agent.
If you don’t have a living will in place, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.