What is a Living Will?

Estate planning covers more than just creating a last will and testament to distribute your assets upon passing away. While none of us expects to find ourselves in a situation in which we cannot dictate the terms of our medical treatment in an end-of-life situation, we should nonetheless be prepared for situations like these and give guidance to or families on what to do when difficult decisions need to be made.

One document vital to these important health care decisions is a living will, which is not the same as a durable power of attorney that designates an agent to make choices on your behalf. These documents are two sides to a coin that your loved ones will need to instruct doctors on what to do should you be unable to speak for yourself in situations like being placed on a ventilator, a feeding tube, or being in a persistent vegetative state.

A living will declares your wishes as to what actions your doctor will take in the event that you are in a terminal condition and takes effect only when you cannot speak for yourself and there is no hope of recovery. A durable power of attorney can also give someone the power to decide your end-of-life choices but can also apply to financial decisions and is superseded by a living will.

What those decisions are and who you may choose to appoint is up to you. Whatever these actions are, it is often a good idea to make them in concert with your spouse and family so they are emotionally prepared with the directives when they are handed down.

When a loved one enters into a terminal situation, family members may be unwilling to let him or her go, and there exists the possibility that courts may be involved to settle who has the authority to essentially end a life. A living will and/or durable power of attorney can erase the ambiguity and help begin the healing process that families will go through when losing a loved one.

To create a living will, individuals can access online forms provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The form must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and submitted to your doctor. In addition to talking your family about your end of life wishes, the living will should be stored in a safe place to ensure that it can be accessed by family members to help ensure your final wishes are carried out as you see fit.

Madison and Rockford Area Trust and Estate Lawyers

The estate lawyers of Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin, and Rockford, Illinois, with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. We invite you to use our online form to request a consultation.

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