The Basics of Living Wills

A living will, or advance directive, is a document that is used in the instance of incapacitation. This document informs your loved ones and health care providers of your wishes if you are unable to make medical decisions. Similar to a will or estate plan, there is software and online programs available to create a living will.

A person creates a living will to describe which life prolonging treatments they do or do not want. Usually a team of doctors must certify that you are unable to make medical decisions before the living will becomes effective. It is also important to note that a living will is only consulted if your ultimate recovery is hopeless. For example, if you suffer a heart attack, the doctors will still attempt to resuscitate you, even if you have declined life-prolonging treatments in your living will.

You also may want to appoint a health care proxy, or power of attorney. This person would be consulted if you were unable to make medical decisions temporarily, but are not suffering from such a dire condition that your living will comes into effect.