Making Your Wishes Known – The Importance of a Living Will

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Legal Blog
Tuesday, 17 May 2011 17:36

A Living Will should be an integral part of your estate plan.  Managing your estate not only means planning for the disposition of your assets after your death, but also means creating a plan for your treatment should you become incompetent and need medical care. A Living Will is a written document that lets your family and doctors know what kind of medical care you want to receive when you are not able to direct your care on your own.

1.  Your Medical Treatment Options. When you are a competent adult, you are responsible and able to make all the medical decisions for your care.  This means that you are able to agree to and refuse any testing, medical procedures or medication you do not wish to have.  This includes any procedures or medication that may extend your life, even if your family or doctor thinks it would be to your benefit.

This changes if you become incapacitated.  If you are too ill to decide or explain what you want done, someone else will make the decision for you.  This decision may not be the one you would make for yourself.  When a doctor has diagnosed you as being terminally ill or permanently unconscious and unable to discuss your medical care, your Living Will comes into effect.

2.  Advanced Directives. An Advanced Directive allows you to clearly state your decisions about what type of treatments you would or would not want to receive in certain situations. You would be able to set out who you want to make your decisions for you, what types of resuscitation measures you would want, or even if you want your doctors to give you every possible treatment.  There are two types of Advanced Directives:  The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Living Will.

3.  Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. If you already have a durable power of attorney for your health care, you may not feel that you need a Living Will.  However, these are two different things.  A durable power of attorney designates who makes your decisions.  The Living Will explains what your decisions are.  While a Living Will only comes into effect during terminal illness or incapacity, a durable power of attorney for your health care can make decisions during temporary incapacity or in unexpected circumstances.

4.  Directions in Your Living Will. You can express your wishes in general or specific terms in your Living Will.  For example, you can simply state that you want your doctors to take whatever measures are available to prolong your life.  Or you can state that you only want to be made comfortable, but want no further medical procedures.

If you want to be more specific, you can be. You can indicate whether or not you want to resuscitated through cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR] or whether you want a respirator or blood transfusions.  You can also ask to have or not have experimental medical treatments.

Whether you are specific or more general in your instructions, it is important to include whether or not you wish to receive food and water through tubes.

It is easy to dismiss the necessity of a Living Will; they are not legally binding in Michigan, but recent court decisions show that they may be binding. In any case, a clearly written, comprehensive Living Will enables your family and medical providers to carry out the decisions you have made when you are unable to.  Your family cannot carry out your wishes unless you make them known.

If you have questions about Living Wills in Michigan, please contact our Chelsea, MI estate planning attorneys today at 734-475-8671.


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