When most of us think of a will, we think of a legal document that outlines how we want our home, money, personal belongings and other assets distributed and to whom when we die. A living will is different in that it provides information on how you want to be medically treated while still alive.
Living wills are similar to an advanced care directive. They inform your family, physicians and hospital staff about what you are and are not okay with should you lose the ability to communicate your desires. Living wills can also include directives that appoint a healthcare representative or proxy. These individuals are familiar with your needs and wishes and can make decisions regarding your health on your behalf.
What directives can I outline in my living will?
Your living will is an opportunity to make clear what kinds of treatments you are willing and not willing to undergo in the event that you are in a physical and mental state from which you are unlikely to recover. Examples of such conditions might include terminal illness, cancer, dementia, coma as well as irreversible diseases.
Your living will gives you the power to determine whether and when you might be willing to receive treatments such as:
- IV or tube feeding
- Intubation for breath support
- Specific medications
You can also include information about organ donation when you die.
Living wills can be supportive if you have strong feelings or religious or cultural preferences regarding particular procedures or medications. They can also provide peace of mind if you suffer from chronic illness or do not want to burden your loved ones with making these sometimes impossible decisions in the heat of the moment. Living wills can be a part of your broader estate plan including your will, trust and other planning documents.