What is a Living Will? And Why You Need One.

Living Wills are now referred to as Advanced Directives that are included in a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. The purpose of an Advanced Directive is to set out your personal and express wishes with respect to certain issues that may come up when you are faced with important medical situations, but be unable to provide your instructions at the moment of need.

Does a Living Will Replace Powers of Attorney?

Living Wills have been replaced by including an Advanced Directive in your Power of Attorney for Personal Care; people do not generally have a stand-alone Advanced Directive unless they are in hospital and sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) directive.

If you have specific requests regarding which types of treatment you will accept, and which type of treatment you are opposed to receiving, you should ensure you include an Advanced Directive in your Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

5 Reasons Why You Need a Living Will

If you were involved in an accident, unconscious or even in a coma, beyond the lawful emergency medical care that will be given to you, anything non-emergency that could well improve your health cannot be applied without your express authorization. If you are not able to verbalize your wishes, a person you appoint using a Power of Attorney for Personal Care becomes your express authorization as that person steps in and directs medical professionals.

When medical personnel do not know if you would prefer to die, rather than remaining in a coma or vegetative state for a lengthy period of time, you can direct them by expressing your wishes in a Power of Attorney for Personal Care with an Advanced Directive.

Without a Power of Attorney for Personal Care with an Advanced Directive, your family may be at odds with one another regarding who should make the decisions about your health; they may forget what you previously told them you wanted; or may authorize what they want for you, even knowing that would not be what you want for yourself.

If you prefer to have control over which medical treatments or procedures would prefer not to have, you must either be conscious and have mental capacity or a Power of Attorney for Personal Care with an Advanced Directive.

Imagine if you were suffering from a terminal disease and likely close to the time when you would pass naturally, but you suffered a heart attack while in hospital, would you want heroic measures taken to prolong your life, or would you rather simply pass? You may well be in too much pain at the time of the heart attack to make the decision or, more importantly, unable to communicate that decision effectively to doctors and nurses.

Imagine that you have been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and accept that you will become more and more physically incapacitated over time but then decide that you would wish to end your life on your own terms before nature ends it for you (and Medical Assistance in Dying [MAID] becomes legal), you might prefer that option but will the physical incapacity overwhelm you so quickly that you lose the ability to communicate those wishes to anyone?

These are issues that are covered by an Advanced Directive, which is now included in the Power of Attorney for Personal Care. Contact the Wills and Estates lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates today, to set up your appointment for your Advanced Directives.

What Do I Need to Think About to Create a Living Will?

The first issue to decide is whom you would name as your designated decision-maker (confusingly called your “attorney” – not to be confused with the American label for lawyer). This person has to be someone you trust emphatically to respect your wishes, even if they are contrary to that person’s own wishes for you. This means that you first have to speak with that person, openly and honestly, about what your wishes are and determined if they would be willing to direct health care providers to treat you in accordance with those wishes; even if it means ‘pulling the plug’ contrary to your attorney’s personal views on life and death.

The second issue is to decide whom to name as an alternate, just in case the first person you named becomes incapable at the same time that you do (imagine a spouse in the same car accident as you were in). Take the same steps to determine that this person would also follow your wishes.

It is most natural to choose your spouse as your first choice, and perhaps an adult child (a child over the age of 18). But, bear in mind that a child of yours may feel too much pressure making that decision, even if they are lawfully an ‘adult’. And, if you have more than one child, will the others feel offended because you chose one of them, not all of them? Is it wise to choose more than one person to fill the role as your attorney?

Once you have decided on whom to name, you have to imagine the different situations that you might face in near future and decide how you would like to be treated, i.e. heroic measures, something less than that, no blood products, or otherwise.

It is important to remember is that you can change your Power of Attorney for Personal Care, and therefore the terms of the Advanced Directive, as often as you feel is necessary. So, if you decide at age 30 that you would not want to exist in a coma on a ventilator, your may have a clause in your Advanced Directive to say “I do not wish to placed on a ventilator”. But, by the time you reach age 60, you realize that a couple of days on a ventilator to help with a bad case of the flu, for example, would be acceptable, you would need to change that clause.

Where Should I Keep my Living Will? 

M. G. Michaels & Associates generally provides clients with three originally signed Powers of Attorney for Personal Care, in addition to keeping one in our safe. We recommend that each client keep one of the other three originally signed copies in a safe place at home, give the second one to their first named attorney, and the third one to the person they named as their alternate attorney.

Some people, especially if they have a debilitating disease or terminal illness choose to provide their treating physician with a copy as well. That is a personal choice.

Contact the Wills and Estates lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates today, to set up your appointment for your Advanced Directives. You can also give us a call or email us now. You’ll be glad you did.