A will is a document that’s designed to express and convey your wishes when you are no longer able to do so. While a traditional will goes into effect in the event of your passing, there may come a time where you are still alive but become unable to express your wishes yourself. The solution to this situation: a living will, which takes effect while you are still alive and is generally used to indicate your wishes for certain situations, such as being put on life support, falling into a coma, or being seriously injured.
Creating a living will is different from a last will and testament in that they may have similar functions, but both must be considered differently. For this reason, it’s strongly advised you enlist the help of a Philadelphia living will attorney from Chestnut Hill Legal. Our firm is committed to helping you create an individualized and unique estate plan that expresses your wishes specifically and clearly to minimize disruptions or disputes. We want your future to be taken care of and you to have the confidence of knowing that should anything unexpected happen, your loved ones won’t have to worry about dealing with legal squabbles when they’re trying to care for you.
A living will has numerous advantages. While a power of attorney and medical power of attorney document is designed to give someone (usually a spouse or close family member) the ability to legally make decisions on your behalf when you can’t express them yourself, a living will can express what you actually want those wishes to be, eliminating the guesswork of what it is you actually want.
In your living will, you state your preferences for heroic, life-sustaining measures in case you are in a permanent vegetative state and your medical providers agree that there is no reasonable hope of recovery. For example, you may specify whether you want feeding tubes administered if their only effect would be to artificially extend your life. Without a living will in place, your loved ones would have to guess what your preferences are, which can put them in a difficult position.
As discussed above, a living will (also called an advance directive) is separate from your last will and testament, and without a living will your family would have to guess what life-prolonging procedures you would want because, since you are incapacitated, you can't communicate your own wishes. Your living will also specifies whether you want your directions to be mandatory or guidance. If your directions are mandatory, your agent has less flexibility in determining your care (they have to do exactly what you say), but it removes potential guilt associated with any particular decision by your agent. If your directions are guidance, your agent has more flexibility, but they may also struggle more with any potential decision. Either option is better than not having a living will at all, which can leave your family guessing at what is already a difficult time.
Your living will also serves to name an agent and acts as a medical power of attorney. This eliminates confusion about who has final say in your medical care. Family members often have difficulty coming to unanimous decisions about care when a loved one is seriously injured or sick and in an irreversible vegetative state. Naming an agent in your medical power of attorney gives that person the authority to act using their best judgment and in accordance with your wishes as set forth in your living will and medical power of attorney.
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