Living Wills: What they are and why you should have one

Feb 16, 2018

It is human nature to put our heads in the sand and avoid planning for our inevitable death. Let’s face it; this isn’t a topic we like to discuss over the dinner table.  However, it can give everyone that all important peace of mind by putting a Living Will in place.

What is a Living Will?

The purpose of the Living Will is primarily to give clear instructions on how to proceed when a person becomes incapacitated.

It outlines a person’s decisions regarding medical treatment and outlines procedural directions if an individual is unable to give consent.  E.g. Whether or not life support is to be used.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of having a Living Will extend to not just the person it is written for, but also give the family and friends comfort if an unfortunate event was to occur.  Accidents are unfortunately part of life and these situations are difficult enough for family without the added stress of added emotional decisions.  At a time of high stress, it gives clear direction of what the incapacitated person would want, even when he or she cannot speak for themselves.

Remember, all families are different and it is important that a Living Will reflects the wishes of the individual.

Interested in creating a new will with an online Will Kit?

When does it come into effect?

A living will only come into effect after certification from two doctors that  you are either suffering from a terminal illness or are permanently unconscious.  If you suffer a heart attack however but do not have any terminal illness then the living will is not executed.  In this case, you would still be resuscitated, even if your living will indicates that you don’t want life prolonging procedures.  It is only used when there is no other option.

For situations where you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself, but your health is not so dire that your living will becomes effective, a health care power of attorney or health care proxy would come into effect.  This is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to make health care decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated.  The person you designate to make health care decisions on your behalf is supposed to consider what you would want, so be sure to talk with them about it. It may be a difficult conversation, but you’re asking someone to take on a great burden for you – letting him or her know what you want lessens that burden.

What if I don’t have a Living Will?

Unfortunately, without a Living Will in place, our current legal system will determine who was the closest to the incapacitated person and give that party the power to make decisions.  However, please be aware that regulations regarding Living Wills can differ between states.

In the complicated world of relationships that we live it, this can be an issue if power is given to the wrong person!

If you do have a living will or even a power of attorney, then don’t just get one done and then forget about.  Circumstances do change over time so it is really important that you review them regularly particularly when there is a life changing event such as a new child in the family – this could make a big difference in how you want your decisions made.

IN addition, make sure that people know that you have a living will in place as it won’t be much use if nobody is aware that you have one! Also, if it is important to you, don’t be afraid to discuss with your doctor what kinds of end of life medical treatments you want.


Have you got a living will? Are you putting off planning your future?

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

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