Unlike other types of wills that are used to pass your property to family members, friends, or even to an organization when you pass away, living wills work very different. A living will tells your family and your physician how you want your medical care to be handled if you become unable to make your own healthcare decisions. In the event you can’t communicate to your family or your doctor, your living will outlines your wants and needs, and it also ensures your wishes are followed. Living Wills are an essential component of an estate plan.
Lisa DiFranza is an estate planning attorney that works closely with families throughout Florida to create Living Wills and estate planning documents. Because every person has their own unique set of wishes, we put together this article with 7 facts you should know about living wills to help guide you through the process.
1. A Living Will is a Binding Legal Document
To ensure your wishes are properly carried out, your living will needs to be a legal binding document and structured properly in accordance with Florida Law. Simply telling someone what you want or writing it down is not enough. A Florida Living Will provides very specific instructions for what you want your family and doctors to do based on the severity of your situation. A Living Will can tell your doctors when you want lifesaving or life-prolonging treatments such as ventilators, feeding tubes, blood transfusions, dialysis, etc.
2. Doctors Determine When You Are Unable to Make Your Own Decisions
Your living will does not go into effect if you are conscious and able to make your own medical decisions. A family member or person you know can’t simply say you are unable to make your own decisions, unfit or unconscious for your living will to go into effect. For your living will to go into effect, you would need to have a qualified medical professional deem you unconscious and unable to make your own decisions. When you have a living will in place, your doctor will know exactly what to do. You can also discuss your living will in advance with your doctor so she or he knows exactly what you want and also ensures they are willing to comply with your wishes.
3. Living Wills Are Living Documents
Once you create your living will, it can be changed at any time. Since living wills are part of estate planning documents, if you want to create a new one, you can’t just throw your copy away. To make a change to or to replace your living will, you should formally change, cancel, or revoke your living will and provide the new document to your healthcare surrogate and healthcare providers.
4. Advance Care Directive versus Living Will
An advance care directive is a way for you make your healthcare wishes known. A living will is a type of advance care directive, along with a durable power of attorney for health care, also known as a health care surrogate designation and other advance care planning documents.
5. Every Person Needs a Living Will
Estate planning isn’t top of mind for people in their teens, 20s, 30s, or even 40s, but people of all ages can benefit from having a living will. Accidents from sports, cycling, driving, etc., can make a healthy person suddenly unable to make their own healthcare decisions. Depending on your age, your spouse or your parents will appreciate knowing your wishes were followed in the event you become unable to make your own decisions.
6. A Healthcare Power of Attorney Can Help
Your estate planning documents can include a health care surrogate designation which appoints a healthcare agent, one person who will ultimately be responsible for speaking with your doctors about your medical condition and the best course of action. You will want to talk to anyone you are considering appointing as your healthcare agent and thoroughly go over your wishes, so they understand exactly what you want and what they are expected to do.
7. Will My Family and Doctors Honor My Living Will?
Doctors are ultimately responsible for your healthcare treatment. While they are not required for following your wishes in your Living Will, most doctors will honor your wishes unless they have an ethical responsibility to administer life-saving techniques or treatments. If you want to be sure your family members and doctor are on board with your wishes in the event you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions, talk to them about it beforehand.
Ready to get started on your Living Will?
Schedule a consultation with Estate Planning Attorney Lisa DiFranza today!