What is a Living Will?

living-will-orange-countyYou may have heard the term “Living Will” used.  Someone may have even recommended that you “get a living will.”  The term seems to be a fairly common one, but what does it refer to?  Is it a normal will?  Is it something akin to a trust? What does the “living” part mean?  Some will be surprised to learn that a “Living Will” is really one-half of what we call an Advanced Healthcare Directive in California.

Unlike a typical will, which is typically drafted to affect what happens after a person dies; a living will is a written document detailing a person’s desires for medical care if they are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make decisions for themselves prior to death.  These documents often include statements regarding medical treatments that you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as other decisions such as pain management or organ donation.

The second half of the Advanced Healthcare Directive is a medical or healthcare power of attorney; often called a durable power of attorney for health care.  A medical or healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to name a trusted person to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.  Even the most thorough living will, on its own, cannot possibly address every potential medical decision.  A durable power of attorney for health care, in conjunction with a living will, allows you to have a plan in place for those unanticipated medical decisions.

Every adult can benefit from having a complete Advanced Healthcare Directive.  Parents of adult children should consider how they would assist with medical decisions should that child ever experience a medical emergency.  Individuals or families working on an estate plan should expect to speak with their attorney about the inclusion of these documents in their complete package.  Contact us if you are interested in finding out more.

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