Living Will: What is a living will and why should I have one?
A living will is a written declaration expressing a person’s decision regarding the use of life prolonging procedures in the event that he or she should suffer from a terminal condition.
In the landmark case of Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a person has the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment, including food and water, as long as that wish is expressed in a valid written document that complies with applicable state law. In Florida, a living will must be signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses, one of whom is not a spouse or blood relative of the maker.
A living will is an important part of an estate plan.
Most people don’t like to think about end of life issues, let alone a document that directs others to not interfere with the process of dying, but a living will is an essential part of an estate plan. A living will does more than just outline of the types of life-prolonging measures you may or may not want to be used should you become incapacitated, it also takes the burden off others to guess what you’d want done.
Once your living will is signed and executed it is your responsibility to notify others that it exists. It is recommended that you provide a copy to your primary care physician to have it made part of your medical records.
It is important to note that a living will can be changed or revoked as long as you have the capacity to do so. However, if you ever decide to alter or revoke your living will, you should contact anyone who has a copy to inform them of the change and provide them with an updated copy if applicable.
Although a living will is an important document, it has its limitations. Living wills are only effective when two doctors declare that you are incapacitated and in the final stages of life. For all other situations where medical decisions need to be made on your behalf, you need to have a health care surrogate designation (also known as a health care power of attorney) in place.