A living will is a legal document that conveys your wishes regarding end-of-life medical care in case you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. It provides specific instructions about the type of medical treatments you want and do not want to receive in such situations. Having a properly executed living will is crucial to ensure your preferences are honored and you receive the care you desire at the end of your life.
This article explains what a living will entails, why it’s important to have one in Florida, and how to go about creating one.
What is a Living Will?
A living will or an advance health care directive, is a legal document that allows you to outline your preferences for medical care in case you become unable to make or communicate decisions yourself. It is different from a last will and testament, which deals with the distribution of assets after death.
Specifically, a living will allows you to make your wishes known regarding life-sustaining treatments you want to receive or avoid in case you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. For example, you can specify whether you want measures like:
- Ventilator support
- Tube feeding
- Organ donation
- Palliative care
- Pain management
A living will only comes into effect when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. As long as you can make and communicate choices about your health, your living will not be used and you will receive the care you request at the time.
It simply acts as an advance directive or pre-authorization in case you become incapacitated. This helps guide your doctors and family members in making medical decisions that align with your beliefs, values, and preferences.
Why You Need a Living Will
A living will serves as your voice when you are unable to make medical decisions. It provides written instructions about the type of care you want to receive if you become unable to communicate. A living will:
- Outlines the specific life-sustaining treatments you would want provided, withheld, or withdrawn. This may include preferences about resuscitation if your heart stops, artificial nutrition and hydration, ventilator use, and more.
- Helps guide your family and healthcare providers in making care decisions that align with your values and wishes. This reduces the stress and burden on loved ones of having to make difficult choices during an already emotional time.
- Avoids unwanted or excessive medical treatment that may unnecessarily prolong the dying process by allowing you to set limits in advance.
- Complements other advance directives like a durable power of attorney for healthcare which names someone to make decisions on your behalf.
Having a living will is recommended for all adults, regardless of age, so that your wishes can direct your care at any stage of life. Unexpected medical emergencies can happen at any time, so it is wise to prepare when you are able to make calm, well-informed choices.
How to Prepare a Living Will in Florida
Follow these key steps to make a legally valid living will in Florida:
1. Consider Your Preferences
Reflect on your personal beliefs, values, and priorities regarding end-of-life care to decide what medical treatments you want or don’t want. Consult your doctor about your health to make informed choices.
2. Choose a Health Care Agent
Select a trusted person to serve as your agent or proxy with power to make medical decisions for you when you cannot. An alternate agent should also be chosen.
3. Use the Standard Form
Florida provides a standard living will form that includes all the required elements. Have your agent and alternate agent complete the form accepting their appointment.
3. Complete the Form
On the living will form, initial your choices for treatments and indicate your donation wishes. Provide contact details for your agent and alternate agent.
4. Sign with Witnesses
You must sign the living will in the presence of two adult witnesses, who also must sign and date the document.
5. Share Copies
Provide copies to your health care agent, doctor, hospital or nursing home, and family members so it is accessible when needed.
6. Update as Needed
Review your living will whenever your health changes or personal wishes evolve and update it accordingly. Destroy old copies once you update the document.
With a living will in place, you can face uncertain health events in the future with greater peace of mind knowing you will receive the medical care you desire. Your loved ones will also have clear direction to make decisions in your best interest without confusion or disagreement.
Plan ahead now so your values shape the care you receive at life’s end.
Let Stivers Law Help You Create Your Living Will
The end of life is filled with complex medical and ethical dilemmas. A living will enables you to maintain control over your care. Stivers Law’s experienced estate planning attorneys can help you craft thoughtful directives tailored for your unique needs.