Living wills: What are they, and why are they important?

Published: 27/7/2023

When it comes to your health, you have the power to make your own decisions, including the medical treatments you receive. Unfortunately, there may come a time when you're unable to communicate those decisions due to unforeseen circumstances. In such situations, it's recommended having a living will alongside your last will.    In this article, we'll explore what a living will is, why it's important and how you can create one to better prepare for the future.

Understanding a living will 

A living will, also known as an advance care directive, is a legal document that communicates your medical care preferences to doctors and caregivers when you're unable to express them yourself. Whether it's due to an accident, severe illness, dementia or coma, a living will ensure that your wishes regarding your quality of life and medical treatments are known to both medical professionals and your loved ones who may need to make decisions on your behalf.

The significance of a living will 

The future of your health is uncertain and you may have specific values and ideas about how you want to live the rest of your life. A living will ensure that your health and medical preferences, formulated when you are of sound mind, are respected even if you're unable to communicate them later on.   By having a legally binding living will in place, you relieve your loved ones of the burden of making difficult decisions regarding your medical treatments. This document provides clear instructions about the future medical care you either consent to or refuse. Moreover, it allows you to incorporate personal preferences based on your values and cultural beliefs.You can express that maintaining a certain quality of life is crucial to you or state your wish for euthanasia if your quality of life doesn't align with your values.  

RELATED ARTICLE: What if your loved one has multiple Wills?

Living wills: What are they, and why are they important?
Living wills: What are they, and why are they important?

Creating a living will 

To create a living will, you need to include an appointed decision-maker who will act on your behalf, outline your values and desired outcomes and specify any medical treatments you would either like or refuse if you were able to communicate. The process of making a living will doesn't necessarily require the involvement of a lawyer, as long as you have the capacity to make decisions.   The specific forms and requirements for creating a living will may vary between states and territories, but you can easily find and download the necessary documents online. Once you have drafted your living will, it's important to have both your doctor and appointed decision-maker sign it. Keep a readily accessible copy, just like your last will and consider reviewing your living will regularly, especially when your values or medical conditions change.  

RELATED ARTICLE: Digital wills vs Traditional wills

The importance of will planning 

Whether it's your last will or living will, creating legally binding documents is recommended to ensure that decisions regarding you and your estate are made according to your wishes. By having both records safely stored and up-to-date, you simplify the process for your loved ones. It's also essential to inform the individuals you have appointed as executors or decision-makers about the existence of these documents and where they are kept.   By creating a living will, you ensure that your wishes and preferences are respected, and you alleviate the burden on your loved ones when it comes to difficult medical decisions. Take the time to plan for the future, create a living will and celebrate life by knowing that your desires will be honoured when it matters most.  

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