Even if you don't have a will or have never helped someone create one, you are still familiar with the concept. Typically, when someone hears the term will, they associate it with a Last Will and Testament, which is drafted to determine what happens to an individual's possessions after they die.
A living will is another type of will, which is different and, in some cases, necessary. Here is some valuable information about living wills.
What Exactly Is a Living Will?
Unlike a traditional will, a living will deal with any procedures or medications you wish to receive after you are incapacitated from an illness or are in a coma. For example, a living will can stipulate if you want to be placed on a ventilator, fed through a feeding tube, or given palliative care.
The living will goes into effect after you are no longer able to make medical decisions for yourself. A doctor will determine when a patient is no longer able to communicate their wishes, and their living will should take effect. Typically, a doctor will ask the patient if they understand what will happen if lifesaving measures aren't taken. If the patient does acknowledge the physician, a written explanation is then provided.
After the written explanation, if the patient does not respond or the doctor believes the patient doesn't understand the consequences of accepting or refusing medical intervention, a living will is consulted.
Who Should Create a Living Will?
Anyone at any time should contact an attorney to create a living will. However, in most cases, an individual who is older or facing a terminal illness will typically create a living will. The laws concerning living wills vary from state to state. For example, some states consider living wills invalid if the patient is pregnant. Your lawyer can walk you through the laws in your state.
A living will cannot include information for individuals who are not terminally ill or in a coma or vegetative state.
According to California law, for a living will to be valid, the patient must be over 18 and able to understand the implications of the living will. The patient must also sign the will. Two witnesses must be present at the signing of the living will, as well. Your physician cannot act as your witness.
Many mistakenly believe that if they create a living will, it means they will automatically not receive any medications or procedures that will prolong their life. This is not true, and patients can include their desire to be kept alive through the assistance of medical equipment, such as a respirator.
How Is a Living Will Revoked?
A living will remains active until the patient passes away, it is revoked by the individual, or a court order is filed that invalidates the living will. A family member can challenge the validity of the living will in court. If the living will is determined to be invalid, it is revoked. In California, a doctor, nursing home, or healthcare facility does not have to comply with your living will.
In some cases, the nursing home or hospital's policy will not allow them to comply with a living will. A doctor can also refuse to comply with a living will if doing so violates their personal or religious beliefs. However, the physician or healthcare professional must help the patient or their family find another doctor or facility who will honor the patient's living will.
The first step you need to take before creating a living will is to contact an attorney. If you have any further questions, contact the professionals at Hassen & Associates.