A will is a document that outlines how you want assets to be distributed to your heirs after you die. A living will, by contrast, includes directions for your wishes while you're at the end of your life. Also known as a medical directive or an advanced directive, your living will can help your family members and other loved ones understand how to provide medical care when you're incapacitated.
What Are Your Medical Wishes?
If you are in a coma or otherwise incapacitated, your family may be unsure of how long to prolong your life. The estate planner who helps you write a living will can help you think about the answers to these questions to include in your living will:
- How long do you want to be on life support?
- Do you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing?
- How long would you want to stay on a ventilator, dialysis, tube feeding, or other medical intervention to prolong your life?
- How do you want to have your pain managed?
These are tough questions to think about, but providing as much detail as possible for your loved ones can help take the burden of decision off them if you've decided beforehand how to handle your incapacitation. After you write your living will, you may want to explain your decisions to your family members so that it's not a surprise if the time comes.
What Do You Want to Happen to Your Body After Your Death?
You have some measure of control over what happens to your body after you die if you stipulate certain conditions in your living will. Think about the following:
- Do you want to donate your body to scientific research?
- Do you want to donate your organs for transplant?
You may want to leave your loved ones instructions for a funeral or burial as well, but this information is better put in a trust with funds to carry out your wishes. An estate planning attorney can help you set it up properly.
Meet All State Requirements
Depending on your state, you may need to get your living will notarized in order for it to be valid. Most states require that you at least sign it in the presence of two witnesses. Your attorney can help you understand all the requirements under the law and ensure that your living will fulfills them. If your living will also requires designating a power of attorney, an estate planning professional can help you select a trustworthy individual to make decisions on your behalf.
Contact a firm like Wright Law Offices, PLLC to learn more.