A topic we get asked about more and more frequently is living wills. People want to know what a living will is, and whether they need one or not. The answer to the second question is easy. Everyone should have a living will in order to protect themselves against a worst case scenario.
What Is a Living Will?
A LIVING WILL is a legal document that lays out a person’s desires and guidelines for end-of-life medical care in the event he or she suffers an injury or illness that makes it impossible for him or her to communicate. They are also known as a directive to physicians or an advance directive, and although “living will” has will in the title, it actually has no power after death.
A living will has become an important part of estate planning. It allows a person to clearly state preferences for medical care and treatments to family members and loved ones so that they are not forced to guess or debate with each other as to the best course of action. Having one also makes the work of medical professionals much easier, helping doctors to avoid guesswork when it comes to healthcare decisions.
How Do You Make a Living Will?
To make a legally binding living will in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you will actually want to have two documents. The first document will designate your durable healthcare power of attorney. This is the agent who will act as your decision-maker if you become incapacitated. Second, you’ll need the document known as the living will, which will designate the exact types of medical treatments you want or don’t want in particular situations. This document can be as specific as you want it to be.
When the two forms are combined into one document, this is known as an ADVANCE DIRECTIVE.
While most people will want to designate a spouse, partner, or relative as their agent, you are free to choose pretty much anyone willing to do it, including friends, business partners, or some other kind of advisor or guardian. But there are two classes of people who are prohibited from being your agent. Pennsylvania law prohibits your doctor or other healthcare providers from being designated as your agent, except when they are related to you. You are also not allowed to designate an owner or employee of a healthcare provider from which you are receiving care.
While it’s possible to create your own living will, most people will look for help from an experienced attorney who can provide guidance on the specific requirements. Most importantly, attorneys can review the document and make sure that it will be legally enforceable and there are no ambiguities. At Kreisher Marshall & Associates, LLC, we have four generations of combined legal experience with helping individuals and families create wills in Columbia and Montour County.
Call (570) 784-5211 today to schedule a free consultation.