One thing that seems to fall to the bottom of everyone’s to-do list is taking the time to make a solid end of life plan, to include writing a living will.  We know it would make things easier when we meet our inevitable end, but it can be difficult to think about and easy to push off.  You’re not alone, according to a survey on FindLaw.com, two-thirds of Americans do not have a living will.  A living will is basically a legal document (or set of legal documents) that direct doctors to either provide or not provide medical care in certain circumstances and/or it appoints a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to.

Do you really need a living will?

You may feel strongly about living in possibly a non-cognizant state.  Some people will argue that needing to use a living will is only a slim possibility, or that they won’t care if they are so bad off they can’t make decisions for themselves, but even if you don’t feel strongly, either way, it can be absolutely devastating for family members to try and make these decisions without knowing the wishes of their loved one.  Many people will remember a heartbreaking national case, about a young lady Terri Schiavo who suffered an unknown brain injury in her home when she was 26 years old.  She could regulate her heartbeat, breathing and could partially see and move her limbs, but she had to have a feeding tube to sustain life.  Then ensued a long battle between her husband who was adamant she would not want to live like that and her parents who were suspicious of the circumstances and also argued that she was fighting to live.  After 15 years battle, her feeding tube was removed and she passed away.  It is a complicated case about whether she was in a persistent vegetative state, however, having a living will that detailed her wishes would have greatly helped the courts and her family to determine her last wishes.

How do you write a living will?

Each state has its own set of requirements for a legal living will.  Most states have the proper legal forms online or you can get one through an attorney or a medical facility, but be careful it is the most up to date form, as laws can change. Forms may require a notary or witnesses.  It is most wise to seek legal counsel to make a living will as part of a full estate plan to include a will, a healthcare power of attorney, a power of attorney for financial reasons, and any other legal documents for a solid end of life plan.  These documents can also help if you are in a traumatic accident, and in case you are incapacitated for a while and regain your health.  

What if I want something more specific instead of either ending life support or keeping me alive indefinitely?

Many forms have room for specific instructions. However, if you have very strong feelings about this topic it is recommended you seek legal counsel to help you formulate your plan in a way that should be upheld.

What else can I put in my living will?

You should add any relevant wishes whatever they may be, for example, if your religion has an effect on your decisions or how you feel about pain-management or whether you have a time limit on life-sustaining treatment, say one week or five years, for example. You can talk about preferences for organ donation or resuscitation support, as well.

Where should I keep my living will?

It seems obvious, but put it somewhere where someone can find it, maybe in your labeled legal files or filing cabinet and also it is wise to give a copy to your physician or the person in designated to make decisions on your behalf.  Although not necessary to keep it in a safe or deposit box, make sure someone has access to the key.

Marinaccio Law serves clients in business disputes and transactions, civil litigation,estate planning and probate and trust administration, landlord tenant matters, and real estate litigation and transactions. Whether it a dispute on a real estate matter, setting up a small business, filing for bankruptcy, or creating an estate plan, Marinaccio Law will provide individual attention in helping to achieve its clients’ goals. Give us a call today and we’ll discuss the best options for you and your specific situation. Phone: (818) 839-5220 or visit our website at http://www.marinacciolaw.com .