End of life care is very controversial, regardless of the fact that many people prefer to have the power to end their life however they choose. These are difficult and emotional conversations to have with the people you love, so it’s important to hash things out before they get difficult.

Making a living will is hard but necessary to do when you’re living with a potential illness or simply reaching an advanced age.

Here are four common questions that people have about living wills.

1. What Is an Advanced Healthcare Directive?

When you put together an advanced healthcare directive, you’re composing an outline and a contingency plan for what to do if your health fails. A living will describes what medical and treatment choices should be considered if you become very ill.

When you are too sick to make your own choices about your healthcare, it’s up to the executor of your estate, your spouse, or your next of kin to make choices. If you’ve put together a living will, you’re arming them with a document about what choices you would make. Rather than having to leave them guessing, you can guide them.

If you have ethical or personal preferences for end of life care, you can make that known now. If you’d prefer someone other than your spouse or partner make those decisions, you can appoint them. One of the reasons for a living will is the awareness that your loved ones might not be able to make those decisions.

For anyone who prefers not to be kept alive with an artificial breathing apparatus, that can be decided on a living will. A living will is important for determining who will be appointed with power of attorney in the event of illness.

2. When Does It Go Into Place?

If you appoint power of attorney to someone, you give them the ability to make your choices regarding healthcare. These documents will be written in language that physicians can understand clearly. They’ll outline which treatments you prefer and which you don’t.

If you’re incapacitated in such a way that you can’t consent to what you want or what treatment you prefer, you’ll need a document like this to communicate.

There are legal standards to determine when you’ll be considered able to communicate on your own. If you’re terminally ill or unconscious, doctors will use medical standards to determine your ability to consent. If you’re in a permanent coma, your living will can guide treatment.

Talk to the person who has your power of attorney and be sure they that understand what you’re requesting. Don’t leave anything up to question by being as clear as possible.

3. What If A Living Will Isn’t Created?

In the absence of a living will, every state has a plan in place. The person who will be appointed to make decisions for you will be described clearly by law.

For minors and children, the person with power of attorney is most likely going to be the parent or guardian. For married people, their spouse will be considered the “next of kin” by law.

When families are fractured or when members disagree about what should be done in response to medical care, this can cause problems. If you find that your family doesn’t agree with your decision to terminate life support under certain conditions, you need to appoint a third-party.

This can be a friend, an attorney, or a professional colleague depending on your relationship to them. You might prefer to choose someone who is able to make unemotional decisions based on a legal document. This is much easier for someone you have no familial relation to than someone you do.

Some people avoid a living will because of a misconception that it means no treatment will you’ll get. It means the exact opposite. With a living will, you’ll get all of the treatment that you require under the conditions of comfort and care that you hope for.

4. Can I Change My Mind?

Of course: you can change the person who is given the power of attorney whenever you’d like. So long as you’re clearly able to make decisions, you can change this person at any point.

As you get older or closer to the more dramatic symptoms of an illness, the ability of loved ones to make decisions will change. They might raise their doubts to you or bring up the fact that they could never “pull the plug”.

This is hard to hear if you’ve put your faith into them, but you should take them seriously. The people around you may need to have their name taken off these documents, as hard as that might be to take.

You’ll have to start by destroying old documents affording power of attorney to friends or family. You’ll then have to draw up new documents that get distributed to the new people with power of attorney.

New forms will then need to be quickly sent to relevant parties. Your healthcare provider, friends, family, and hospital will need the updated forms. This way you’ll be able to have changes made in time.

Your hospital or healthcare provider will be able to give you these documents. It’s smart to fill out these forms in advance. If you already have an attorney, they’ll be able to provide you with these forms in advance.

Making a Living Will Is a Struggle

Making a living will be the hardest part of your end of life care. Once it’s made, you can relax knowing that your care is administered the way that you demand it. Your living will is a way to reassure you that you’ll get everything you demand when it comes to getting the comfort you deserve.

If you need help putting together your living will, contact us for more tips.

Aaron De Bruin

Aaron De Bruin is an Estate Planning and Criminal Defense attorney serving Greenville, SC and the surrounding upstate. Aaron fights for the rights of every one of his clients works hard to make sure they are treated fairly – no matter how small or large a legal case may be.