Friday, January 1, 2010

Living Will Q & A

What Is A Living Will?

Basically a living will is a written statement by you that describes your wishes in the event you become incapacitated. For instance, in the event of a coma due to irreparable brain damage, would you wish to stay on life support or be unplugged?

A living will is also known as a health care directive. It outlines your intentions, should you become permanently disabled, go into a coma, or go on life support. The living will specifies terms relating to how much or little life support and what kinds of support you wish to receive, and who should make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

As a general rule it's a good idea to have a living will and especially if you are going to have surgery. Even if you have a living will, you need to make sure you inform your family of your wishes as well. There are excellent services available online that provide pre-drafted Living Will templates allowing you to fill out your details and print it out ready for your signature.

What Is The Difference Between A Living Will And Power Of Attorney?

A living will is a standard document that spells out how you'd want to be treated medically if you can't speak for yourself. You can put as much or as little information in it as you wish. There are many such forms available online and through various organizations.

Living will gives directions on how to proceed when you're paralyzed, for example, and can no longer speak. Or when you're in a coma, for example, and a decision is required regarding life support. In contrast, a Power of Attorney gives another person the right to speak or sign documents on your behalf should you become incapacitated but your incapacity is not life threatening.

A Health Care Power of Attorney can also be easily found online. You will need to ask your designated person if he or she is willing to serve as your POA. You will need to discuss the parameters of your wishes with this person because they will be your voice if you are unable to speak. You should have more than one designated POA ranked as first second etc. in case your first choice is unavailable.

Should You File A Living Will To Make It Legally Accepted?

Normally a living will does not have to be notarized however it should be witnessed by two people who are not related to you.

Make copies and distribute them to your doctor and any family members designated by you to carry out your wishes, and make sure they know where the original is. Do not put the original in your safety deposit box at the bank. If you go into the hospital, many hospitals have their own form that they will want you to sign at that time. It does not require legal filing and it need not be drafted by your lawyer.

Make sure your family and doctor know what you want. Discuss your wishes with them so they know. A living will is a health care directive, not a "will" for property assets. It is not "filed" anywhere, but kept until needed. The witnessing/notarization requirements can vary from state to state.

What Is The Difference Between Living Will And Living Trust?

A living will sets out medical treatments that you do or do not want in circumstances where you are incapable of giving informed consent to those treatments.

A living trust is any kind of trust you set up while you're still alive. It's often a way of passing on an inheritance without the trouble and expense of probate. As a general rule a Living Trust requires more input by a competent lawyer in order to be properly set up. For specific information about the relevant legal issues in your jurisdiction you should consult a professional.

Stephan J. Arnold is a freelance writer, blogger and Internet entrepreneur. More on this subject by Stephan at:

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