Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that more than two-thirds of people in the United States do not have a living will. Legal documents such as living wills and advanced directives allow you to describe the kind of medical treatment you want if you cannot decide for yourself. Not having these documents can make medical situations difficult for your loved ones.
Difference between a living will and an advanced directive
A living will is a document that clarifies what lengths medical staff should go through to save your life. For example, a living will might state that you do not want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing. Or, it could list your decision to be kept on life support or not if you are in a coma.
An advanced directive identifies a family member or legal representative to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so. An advanced directive must be in writing and follow the legacy planning laws of your particular state.
Keeping your forms updated
Living wills and advanced directives may need to be updated as your estate planning and medical conditions change. If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you might change your mind about medical procedures that could prolong your life. Additionally, you would need to update your advanced directive appointee should they become ill or incapacitated.
How to let people know you have a living will and advanced directives
If you are taken to a hospital for emergency treatment, you will want to have some way to alert medical personnel that you have legal directives. You could keep a small card in your wallet that provides contact information for your medical power of attorney. That person should have all copies of your updated medical directives.
Advanced directive documents could be some of the most important legal paperwork you complete. Having your wishes on file allow you to manage your health care and spares family members from having to make difficult and confusing choices.