Why everyone should have a living will

Published 2:54 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2022

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Let me again begin by stating that I’m not an attorney nor am I dispensing legal advice. I am providing information about a living will and why I believe having one is very important.


As a review of terms, a will is a legal document that specifies how a person’s estate should be handled only after that person’s death. A living will has nothing to do with how your “things” like property, money, jewelry etc. are to be distributed. Unlike a will, it is in fact a document that comes into play while you’re still alive.

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A living will is a legal document that outlines your preferences for medical care, if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to communicate or make decisions for yourself. It clearly states your wishes about how you want to be treated in a crisis involving your health.


Not only does a living will instruct care providers as to what you want if you can no longer make decisions for yourself, it can also be helpful to your loved ones. They won’t have to make difficult choices about your continued care or termination of care under specified circumstances. It thereby reduces the chances of confusion or arguments among family members over what’s in your best interest.


Where you live is important, as each state has its own living will form or specifics about what instructions you should consider including when it’s written. It’s important to note your state’s requirements to ensure your wishes are enforceable if you have moved and now live in another state. A healthcare power of attorney can be included as part of your will that names your Power of Attorney also as your Healthcare POA or surrogate, or it can be a separate document, depending on your state.


Some things you should consider doing before you create a living will include talking to your doctor about treatment options to be sure s/he will honor your instructions. Be sure your primary physician and hospital have a copy of your living will on file with your medical records, as well as copies with your healthcare POA and your family.


What you want for your medical care treatments or to keep you alive is very personal. Some types of treatments are very tough on the body, so you may want to specify how long you’d be willing to go through certain regimens. If comfort and being free of pain are your priorities, make certain that is stated in your living will.


Someone whom you trust should be legally named as your healthcare surrogate or healthcare power of attorney. This person will be permitted to make healthcare decisions on your behalf based on your wishes prior to any health-related incident that may render you unable to communicate.


Although it can be the same person as your financial power of attorney, which may reduce some conflicts over financial issues, it does not have to be the same person. The healthcare POA has only the right to make healthcare decisions for you, not financial decisions. It’s important to know that a healthcare POA or surrogate need not be a family member. It can be a trusted friend, thereby relieving family members of the stress of making difficult or in some cases, end-of-life decisions.


Writing a living will takes lots of foresight and consideration because it discusses your wishes about many issues such as breathing assistance with a ventilator, feeding tubes, medications, and becoming an organ donor after your death. I recommend speaking with a lawyer who specializes in estate planning or an elder law attorney who can help ensure the document is written in a clear and instructional way that leaves little or nothing open to interpretation.


I believe that a living will should be considered by everyone, as it can provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind if a time comes when some of life’s most serious decisions need to be made.


Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. You may contact him by phone at

(828) 696-9799 or by email at: drron561@gmail.com.