What is a Living Will?
A living will is essentially advance heath care instructions that provides answers to two primary questions:
- If you are going to die and there is no hope of survival, do you authorize the withholding of water and artificial nutrients? In other words, are you okay with withholding a feeding tube?
- Do you wish to donate organs after your death?
Do You Need a Living Will?
Including a living will in your estate plan is imperative. A living will is critical because it is your advance directive as to how you wish to be medically treated when you cannot make the decision for yourself at the time. Without a living will, your family, power of attorney, or other persons could answer these questions for you. Allowing third parties to make a decision for you can be problematic. For example, let's say that you are in a coma and unable to make decisions for yourself. The doctors tell your family that you are going to die, but you may live for weeks longer if you have a feeding tube. Your spouse wants to allow you to die comfortably, but wants a feeding tube withheld. Your spouse believes that the withholding of that feeding tube would be your wish should you had the ability to say so. By contrast, your child believes that you would want to stay alive for as long as possible and that you would desire nutrients and water to sustain your life. In this situation, who makes the decision? Would prior conversations you had when you were healthy come into play? Most likely these questions would have to be answered by a judge. The best way to avoid these potential conflicts is to make your wishes known. A living will is a very simple document and its worth taking a few minutes to prepare one. It could save your family from conflict and potentially having the Courts resolve the issue.
Can You Change a Living Will?
Yes, a living will can always be changed or even revoked. Unlike general powers of attorney, once a living will is executed it does not have to be updated. Should you wish to change your living will, all that is required is that you execute a new document.
What is the Difference Between a Living Will and a Will?
A living will is an advance directive stating whether you wish to have nutrients and water provided to you if you are going to die to prolong your life and whether you want to be an organ donor after your death. By contrast, a will is a document that states where you want your assets and property to go when you pass away. It appoints an executor, establishes trusts, and states who you want to raise your children in your absence. Neither a living will or will are required by law, but they both are critical to a good estate plan.
Advance Health Care Directives
Remember that a living will is a fairly inflexible document and does not cover all contingencies. Tennessee does recognize a document called an Advance Health Care Directive, which lays out your instructions as to what should be done to you given specific medical circumstances. For example, do you want to have surgery to treat a condition even though it may not solve the condition? Do you want CPR to revive you should your heart stop? These are questions that an Advance Health Care directive answer for you. We encourage you to speak with your primary care physician if you desire to fill this document out as it is very medically specific.
What is the Difference Between a Living Will and Living Trust?
It is a common misconception that a living will and a living trust are the same thing. This confusion is primarily due to the similar names each document has. A living trust, or revocable trust, is an estate planning document that is primarily used to avoid probate. It is a totally different document from a living will. As discussed, a living will is document that provides advance heath care directives.
Contract Clarksville Lawyer John Crow to Create a Living Will
If you are considering creating a living will, give Clarksville estate planning attorney John Crow a call at 931-218-7800 to set up an appointment. Consultations are always free and we would love to hear from you.