Trust & Estates Law Blog

What is a Living Will and Do I Need One?

A living will is a legal document in which a person directs the types and duration of treatment he or she would want to receive if ill and unable to communicate their wishes regarding things such as life support or artificial nutrition. If you do not have a living will, the decisions made regarding types and length of treatment given to you may become a dispute between family members and doctors or could result in the need for judicial proceedings to determine your wishes. Having a living will increases the chances that the decisions made regarding your care will be consistent with what you want.

Don’t be mistaken that because you may have health care proxy you’re all set.  A living will is different from a health care proxy because living will does not appoint an agent to make your decisions. It serves as a way to express in greater detail the types of decisions you would want your health care proxy agent to make.

A living will should address whatever is important to you regarding your health care decision making. For example, people often describe their wishes regarding the administration of artificial hydration and nutrition, their religious beliefs regarding illness and death and their thoughts regarding physician assisted termination of life.

There are no formal requirements for executing a living will but you should be sure it constitutes “clear and convincing evidence” of your wishes. The document should be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses and a notary.  Keep it in a secure location known to your health care proxy agent. You’ll also want to give copies to your health care proxy agent, the successor agent (if any) and your medical providers.  Your living will can change be revoked or amended at any time.

The experienced estate planning professionals at the O’Connell and Aronowitz would be happy to assist you in drafting your living will.

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