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What is a Living Will and Do I Need One?

Most people know what a last will and testament is and may even have one in place. A living will is different from a last will, and it is something everyone should consider having. A living will goes by several names including an advance directive, medical directive, and declaration to physicians. It is a legal document that gives directions to doctors regarding critical medical decisions if you are unable to do so due to incapacitation. A living will is often part of an entire estate plan.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a written document that provides legal direction when you suffer an injury or illness that leaves you incapacitated. In Wisconsin, there are two types of advance directives including a living will and a power of attorney for health care. A living will provides instructions for healthcare professionals to provide the care you desire. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf to make health care decisions if you are unable to do so. Generally, an advance directive tells others how to handle your care if you are in a terminal condition.

Benefits of a Living Will

There are several benefits of having a living will in place. One of the most important benefits of a living will is that it gives your loved ones essential information about making medical decisions if you become ill. Often, loved ones struggle with these critical issues. By having a healthcare directive in place, it takes the burden and stress off your family. A living will ensures that doctors will follow your wishes. If you put a healthcare power of attorney in place, your designated agent can make decisions based on your desires. A “Do Not Resuscitate” order can keep you from surviving in a vegetative state.

How to Create a Living Will

An advance directive is a legal document and must be made in writing. Each person should draft a living will that meets his or her specific needs and wishes. You may want to include some essential care decisions such as when to provide CPR, mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, and comfort care. In addition, you should address medications that you want to be used in your treatment. Include instructions for organ or tissue donation as well as donation of your body. Typically, avoid using template forms since these may not address all of your needs and they could be deemed unsatisfactory. Consult an attorney to draft a living will specifically for you and your family. You must have two people witness the signing of the document. Once complete, make sure that you keep the document in a place where others can access it when it becomes necessary. Inform your loved ones and designated agent of your wishes and provide them with a copy of the document.

A living will is one of the most important parts of an estate plan. Make sure that an attorney reviews your needs and drafts a document for your plan. To learn more about living wills and estate plans, contact our experienced legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. Contact us online or call us at (608) 784-8310 for a consultation.

Published November 20, 2020
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