Will your family members know how to handle a life-threatening illness or injury involving a loved one? A “living will” can point them in the right direction.
A living will is a legal document that establishes guidelines for prolonging or ending medical treatment. It’s important to have a living will created for yourself, and for relatives such as your spouse and parents, to inform health-care providers in case of a medical emergency or terminal illness.
A living will indicates the types of medical treatments you want or do not want applied in the event you suffer a terminal illness or fall into a permanent vegetative state. The living will doesn’t become effective unless you’re incapacitated. Typically, a physician must certify that you have a terminal illness or that you’re permanently unconscious.
To cover situations in which someone is incapacitated and can’t speak, yet the condition isn’t so dire that the living will becomes effective, you can execute a health-care power of attorney or health care proxy.
The requirements for living wills vary from state to state. Have an attorney who is experienced in these matters prepare the living will based on applicable laws. The best approach is to coordinate your living will with your regular will, any trusts or powers of attorney you may have, and other estate-planning documents.