What is a Living Will?
A living will is an advanced health care directive. It is a legal document that describes a person’s desires relating to medical treatment if he or she should become unconscious or unable to communicate. Living wills are part of California’s Natural Death Act, which spells out the requirements for a document of this nature and the rules for revocation of such a document, among other things.
These documents are not just for the elderly or infirm. They can be especially helpful if someone who is otherwise healthy suffers an unexpected, catastrophic accident. Any California resident at least eighteen years old (or who is an emancipated minor), of sound mind, acting of his or her own free will, can complete an advance health care directive.
The person appointed to make decisions in the event that the creator is unable to make these decisions for his or herself is referred to as an agent. The creator of a living will should appoint someone he or she trusts and have a conversation with that person beforehand to explain the kind of medical care desired. An alternate agent can also be named in case the listed agent is unwilling or unable to do the job. The agent will not be legally liable for his or her decisions as long as he or she acts in good faith.
Living wills usually spell out whether or not the creator wants medical treatments that will only prolong the dying process if he or she should become seriously ill or injured (such as a feeding tube or ventilator). The creator’s doctor and agent need to follow these lawful instructions as long as they fall into generally accepted health care standards. A living will is also a good place to state desires concerning organ donation.
Completing a living will or advance health care directive is something we should all consider, especially when putting together estate planning documents. If you are in the Orange County, California area and have questions about advance directives, call the estate planning attorneys at OC Wills & Trust Attorneys at (949)347-5256 today.