A living will is where you express your wishes about how you want to be treated and cared for in certain situations, in case the time comes when you do not have the capacity to make or communicate your decisions. The document sets out your wishes about health care and treatments that you do or do not want to have when you become seriously ill. It can also be known as an “advanced directive” but it should not be confused with a lasting power of attorney (which we refer to at the bottom of the article).
Malky Chaloner, a Solicitor in our Wills & Tax Team, explains “A living will is helpful to your relatives and doctors if you become incapacitated. They are not legally binding but they are usually taken into account by your doctors when considering your care. As such, living wills, along with powers of attorney, should be seen as part of your planning arrangements. A living will is not tool for euthanasia, but an advance request to doctors not to give certain medical treatment.”
A living will is usually most effective when compiled in the early stages of a disease or disability, as you will then know more about the prognosis and the likely future situations you might find yourself in. Writing a living will encourages a full discussion about end of life decisions. If your doctor is aware of your wishes, they can give the appropriate treatment and it can take some of the pressure away from your family. The biggest challenge of writing one, is that you never know when they might be needed and often do not know what treatment may be considered. It’s also wise to make close family members aware that you have written one so that they know you have written one and your wishes aren’t accidentally ignored.
In conjunction with a living will, you can make a “health care proxy”, which gives authority to someone else to make those decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself. A lasting power of attorney for health and welfare is almost an alternative to a living will. A lasting power of attorney allows you to delegate specific authority to someone else to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make or communicate such decisions. Unlike a living will, a lasting power of attorney for health and welfare gives the attorney the ability to make a wide range of health care decisions, not just those directed towards death.
Malky concludes “It can all be confusing and intimidating to consider if you or a relative is in the position of needing to make these decisions. We are here to advice on the best steps to take for your particular circumstances and the best course of action is to get in touch with us to help with any questions you may have.”
Our Wills & Tax Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Malky or her team, will be happy to chat about your situation and you particular requirements.