Living wills are one of those things we don’t like to talk about. And many people avoid discussing them altogether. But having a living will is crucial when it comes to getting your affairs together. A living will gives clear instructions on how you want to be treated if you are ever in a situation where you cannot make decisions for yourself. This can provide a sense of clarity and guidance for your family members who may be struggling to make difficult decisions on your behalf.
Some states do not automatically give authority to family or next of kin, making creating a living will even more important.
The good news is that creating a living will is easier than it sounds. As long as you know your wishes, filling out the form is a simple task. Let’s look at what living wills entail and how you can write yours quickly and for free.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will is a legal document that outlines your end-of-life medical care preferences. It allows you to state your wishes in advance if you cannot communicate your medical choices yourself. Living wills are also sometimes called “advance directives” and typically come in two forms:
- Healthcare Power of Attorney – This document gives another person (whom you appoint) the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
- Living Will – This document outlines the specific type of medical treatment you would like to receive if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your decisions.
Your living will should include information about your wishes for life-sustaining medical treatments, including the use of medication, nutrition and hydration, and other resuscitation methods.
*It is also vital to understand that a living will is not the same as a simple will in which you specify who will get your assets and a guardian for any minor children.
What Should You Include in a Living Will?
It is critical to be as specific as possible when drafting a living will. List any particular preferences you have about what treatments you want and do not want to receive if you become disabled. It is also essential to list your preferences regarding treatment for any underlying conditions that you may have.
When listing therapies, provide any specific drugs or treatments you want or do not want for end-of-life care. Specifying the hospital, clinic, physician, or other healthcare professionals you want to utilize is also critical.
Additionally, living wills should include instructions for who is designated to make decisions for you if you cannot do so for yourself. Choose someone who will understand and respect your preferences and be willing to carry them out in the case of a medical emergency. A closely-living family member is a common choice.
Finally, a living will should be signed by witnesses, notarized, and updated regularly to reflect any changes in your wishes. Keep a copy of your living will in a secure location, such as a safety deposit box. You should also give your family and healthcare provider a copy of it.
How To Write a Living Will for Free
Numerous online resources are available to help you write a living will for free without the need for a lawyer. Many of them offer templates for living wills that you can download and complete at your leisure. You’ll just need to fill in the specific details of your wishes, have it notarized, and provide a copy to your doctor, family, and healthcare provider. Here are some websites offering free downloadable living will forms:
How To Make Your Living Will Legal
Creating a living will is a serious decision and should be taken as such. Once you have drafted your living will, make sure that it is legally binding. To do this, make sure that it meets the following requirements:
- The document should be accurately and completely filled out and should include any extra pages if needed.
- The document should be signed and dated in the presence of at least two impartial witnesses unrelated to the signing.
- The entire document should be signed, including all clauses, subclauses, and extra pages.
- The document should be notarized if required in your state.
- Depending on your state, you may need additional signatures or other legal formalities for the living will to be legally binding. This information can often be found on your state’s government website.
What if You Need To Make Changes to Your Living Will?
Often, people find that they need to update, amend or revise their living will. This can occur with age, health conditions, or changes in relationships. To make changes to your living will, revoke any prior versions of the original document. This includes destroying any physical or electronic copies. You should also notify all previously appointed witnesses, who will no longer be legally bound to your process. New signatures will be required if a person chooses to appoint new witnesses.
Making Sure Your Living Will Is Honored
Once you have ensured that your living will is updated and stored safely, you will want to be sure it is honored. This means taking steps to notify those involved, including your doctor or healthcare provider, if and when the need arises.
It is important to notify your doctor about your living will. In addition to possessing a signed and dated actual document, you may create a duplicate of it and keep it in your wallet. This will help ensure the document is accessible in case it’s needed.
Additionally, you should keep a list of your appointed witnesses and make sure they know who to contact in the event that your living will is needed. You should also make sure your family, friends, and caretakers know your living will and how to access it.
By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your wishes about your care are respected and honored.
From choosing the right witnesses and appropriately updating and storing the documents to ensuring it is honored, writing your living will can bring you peace of mind. Knowing that your wishes will be respected if and when the time comes can enable you to approach this important life decision confidently. Remember to do your research first and know the specific requirements for your state of residence. With these steps, writing your living will can be a free and easy process.