What is a Living Will and when does it become effective?
A Living Will is a written or oral statement of your wishes, instructions and limitations concerning the kinds and duration of medical diagnosis and treatment you want to receive, should you become incapable of personally expressing those wishes at the time of diagnosis and treatment. It is always better to express those wishes clearly and in writing, so as to eliminate any uncertainty.
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A Living Will is valid as soon as it is signed. However, the provisions of your Living Will take effect or “activate” if and only if you are unable to make informed decisions for yourself or are unable to personally express your wishes at the time that treatment is being considered. So long as you are able to understand the nature and consequences of health care decisions, including the benefits, risks and alternatives to any proposed diagnosis and treatment, and to reach an informed deliberative decision about what you want to do, your doctors and other health care providers will discuss your treatment options directly with you and then you can give them your informed consent about what types of treatment you do or do not want.
What is a Health Care Proxy and how does it relate to a Living Will?
A Health Care Proxy is a written document by which you name an “Agent” to express your desires, wishes and preferences to doctors and other health care providers in the event you are unable to express them for yourself. Any competent adult can sign a Health Care Proxy.
As with a Living Will, a Health Care Proxy is recognized and “activated” if and only if you are unable to express your wishes at the time a particular treatment or test may be appropriate. It is important to thoroughly discuss different diagnosis and treatment possibilities with your Agent, so they understand your wishes as fully as possible, especially as they concern the treatment of terminal illness, and your thoughts about whether you wish to be kept alive in a “persistent vegetative state”, with no reasonable chance of your recovery. There must be clear evidence that your Agent knows your wishes about “artificial nutrition and hydration” so that they can express those wishes on your behalf. Your agent may not substitute his or her own judgment and choice in place of yours, but must follow your wishes, if known to them, and if not known, your agent must act in your “best interest.”
Wills and Trusts, Asset Protection, Medicaid Planning, Elder Law, Powers of Attorney, Probate and Administration, Guardianships, and Health Care Proxies.