Ask A Lawyer: What Is A Living Will, And Do I Need One
Few things in life are more daunting than the prospect of our own mortality. But for many people, a more pressing and stressful concern is what might befall us in the weeks, months, or years leading up to the time of our passing.
If you have a degenerative illness, a family history of life-threatening conditions, or a family to worry about, it’s understandable you would think about what would become of you and your loved ones in the event of an emergency.
Yet worrying over what may happen in the future is a sure-fire way to prevent you from enjoying what is happening in the present. If you’re concerned that a time may come when you’re unable to control what happens to you, a living will can give you peace of mind and ensure both you and your loved ones are never in doubt as to what action to take, in the event of an emergency.
But what is a living will, and do you really need one?
What Is A Living Will?
A Living Will, also called an Advanced Decision or Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), is a document that is pre-written to create a formal record of future decisions and wishes regarding your personal health and wellbeing. It can help your family and friends to understand what medical treatments you would choose to refuse, in the event you are unable to make a decision for yourself.
For example, if you have a degenerative condition such as dementia, which may render you unable to make informed choices in the future, you can outline exactly how you wish to be treated once that situation arises.
If, in the future, you cannot express or communicate decisions yourself, your wishes will still be followed and you will not be forced to undergo treatments or measures you would not want.
Your living will can indicate whether or not you would want medical treatments such as life support, and can also include a DNR, which tells medical professions you do not wish to be resuscitated in the event your heart fails, or you stop breathing.
You can produce a living will at any age over 18 years, providing you have the mental capacity to make informed decisions about your own care at the time.
A living will differs to a regular will, in that it is designed to outline your wishes while you are still alive. A last will and testament, on the other hand, is intended to indicate how you wish your possessions and estate to be distributed once you have passed away.
What Can You Include In Your Living Will?
Advancing age, chronic illness, mental health issues, accidents and injuries can all render us incapable of making or communicating vital decisions concerning our own care. This can potentially lead to treatments and measures being administered that you would not want, or withheld when you would have chosen to try them.
A Living Will allows you to refuse or request any treatment and is particularly important to put in place if you are concerned you may find yourself in circumstances that prevent you from voicing your opinion.
The document allows you to be extremely clear about the specifics of what you do and do not want. It’s important to be as specific as possible in your Living Will, and you can use it to refuse any treatment that has side effects you don’t wish to experience, or can continue to keep you alive beyond a point you feel a natural passing would be best. For example:
- CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can help your heart work again in the event of failure.
- Antibiotics can be administered to help fight infections that would otherwise be fatal.
- Ventilation assistance can aid you in breathing if you are struggling to do so yourself.
LPAs: The Key Process
It’s important to have a thorough discussion of future possibilities and anything you want or do not want to happen. Once you have made your decisions they will be written down, then signed by yourself, signed by a witness, and dated.
You need to think about any future situations and speak to your loved ones about them. Spouses, siblings, children and close friends are all going to be affected by your choices, and it can be helpful for them to be prepared and aware ahead of time.
It may be helpful to give a copy of your Living Will to your loved ones, your GP, or anyone involved with your daily care.
Do I Really Need A Lasting Power Of Attorney?
It is important to think about this question carefully, considering what type of decisions you want to make for the future regarding your medical treatment. Your GP may be able to provide you with further help and guidance, as well as your medical history.
While it may seem like something you only need to consider if you are advancing in years, or experiencing ill-health, it’s important to remember that unexpected circumstances can also arise.
In the event of an accident that left you brain dead, for example, you may not wish to remain on life support if there is no hope for recovery.
If a living will hasn’t been put in place it will be up to your family to make decisions for you, which can be very challenging.
Sometimes it’s better to provide your decisions prior to any illness or further medical treatment so that your family can understand your wishes and put them in place for you.
How Easy Is It To Create Your Own Advanced Decision?
It is quite straightforward to complete an LPA yourself, and there are many online forms that you can print off for a DIY solution.
However, it is always best to gain some legal advice if you are worried or concerned. If you feel a Living Will is necessary, it’s almost certainly because there is something you don’t wish to be done to you, or a situation you would never wish to find yourself in. Given the importance of these concerns, it is vital that all the information needed is written down correctly, and is not confusing for family members to understand should you be unable to explain it to them.
Getting help creating your LPA from a lawyer is always advisable. They can provide you with all the information you need, and answer any questions you are worried about in a one-to-one consultation.
At Beeston Shenton, we can aid you with any queries or concerns you have about living wills, help you decide if one is necessary, and guide you smoothly through the process of creating one. Get in touch today and we’ll walk you through every step of the process…