When a medical tragedy strikes, family and friends want to do all that they can for their sick or injured loved one. If the person winds up in a coma or otherwise requires life-sustaining interventions, those people face intense stress. They last thing anyone wants to do is choose what measures to take to extend or end a life. However, should something happen to you, you want your wishes to be followed. And, if you’re on the other side, you will be grateful for clear guidelines.
You can make a living will at any time that you’re conscious and of sound mind. However, a living will can be changed or updated as needs change. In fact, you should review these types of documents at least every five years and keep them up-to-date.
What a Living Will Is and Is Not
A living will is a legal document that states your opinions on end-of-life care and life-sustaining measures. It’s designed so that if something happens and you’re no longer able to speak for yourself, your wishes can still be carried out. It’s best to create one before it’s actually needed and when you’re of sound mind and not under duress of any kind. The good thing about a living will is that it can be updated at any time.
A living will takes on different names depending on your state of residence, so things can get confusing. Despite both documents using the word “will,” a living will and your last will and testament are not the same thing. A living will guides medical decisions based on your explicit wishes in the event that you’re no longer able to make them for yourself. A last will and testament divides up your property after you’ve died and may have to go through probate. Always have these documents ready ahead of time so your wishes, in both life and death, can be carried out the way you intended.
The Mayo Clinic explains that a Do Not Resuscitate/Do Not Intubate order is not the same thing as a living will. Instead, if you don’t have a living will but have an opinion on being resuscitated or intubated, let your physician know so they can record your wishes. However, if you do have a living will and you do have a preference of being intubated or resuscitated, make sure that preference is included.
When Should You Update Your Living Will?
When it comes to updating your living will, it’s best to update it any time there’s a big change that happens in your life. One time it’s incredibly important your living will should be updated is when you move states. Different states have different laws regarding living wills, so if you move states, it may best to adapt your living will so it’s in line with the state you’re currently living in.
Another time you’ll need to update your living will is if your opinions in life-sustaining measures or end-of-life care changes. This can happen because of a number of reasons, from a change in your personal health to changes in health care law to the death of a loved one. Regardless of the reason for your change in opinion, make sure your living will reflects that change. You wouldn’t want your family members thinking that you want extraordinary measures taken to keep you alive when your opinion changed and you don’t want that anymore.
So, if you’re ever in a spot where the unfortunate happens, ensure your wishes will still be met. Create or update your living will as soon as possible. Our attorneys will be happy to assist you.
And keep in mind that a living will has no expiration date and can be updated as many times as you want. Just make sure that if anyone has copies of your old living will, they’re made aware that there’s a new copy and they get a hold of the new copy so there’s no confusion about your end-of-life or life-sustaining wishes.