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Do I Need a Living Will?

Do I Need a Living Will?

The short answer is yes, you need a living will.

A living will, also sometimes called a directive to physicians or an advanced directive, is a legal document that details medical interventions you are comfortable with being used to prolong your life, should you become unable to consent to treatment. The directives in your living will only apply to your care if you have an incurable terminal condition. Much like completing estate planning documents, healthcare documents should be completed before you are in a crisis. An accident can happen at any time and it’s important to outline your personal choices regarding end-of-life measures.

Thinking about your mortality is not an easy subject to approach. Should you become incapacitated without a living will, your immediate family will become responsible for making end-of-life decisions on your behalf. By outlining your wishes, you are eliminating the often stressful, and perhaps controversial, decisions your family and healthcare providers are otherwise required to make. Completing a living will should give you and your family peace of mind. The authority granted through a living will expires when the grantor dies.

Drafting a Living Will

Living wills can be drafted by an attorney.  In Wisconsin, residents can find a free living will form through the Department of Health Services’ website at dhs.wisconsin.gov. When determining your end-of-life wishes, you will have to consider your personal values and/or religious beliefs. Some of the topics addressed in a living will are:

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
  • Do Not Intubate (DNI)
  • Mechanical Ventilation
  • Dialysis
  • Blood Transfusions
  • Tube Feeding
  • Antibiotics or Antiviral Medications
  • Palliative Care
  • Hospice Care
  • Organ and Tissue Donation

It’s vital to discuss the medical terminology within the living will with a healthcare professional to ensure you are completing the form correctly.

Sharing Your Wishes

One of the most important steps after completing a living will is sharing your wishes with your immediate family and those closest to you. It is also recommended that you provide a copy of your living will to your primary care physician or your local hospital to keep in your file. Like all important documents, you should also keep an original copy in a safe place where it can be easily found in the event of an emergency.

A living will is one of several tools that can be used to give advance directives about your end-of-life wishes. You may also consider completing a healthcare power of attorney form. By naming a healthcare power of attorney, you give another person the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to consent to treatment. That person has authority until your condition becomes terminal, at which point end-of-life measures are outlined in your living will.

Finally, it is recommended that you review your estate planning and healthcare documents routinely to confirm your wishes, or to amend your documents if your circumstances have changed. If you have a life transition such as a new medical diagnosis, a change in marital status, or the loss of a spouse, you may want to review your living will, power of attorney, or estate planning documents that you’ve previously completed. 

For more information on estate planning – visit SVAFinancial.com/eGuides.

@2020 SVA Financial Group

All information herein has been prepared solely for informational purposes only and opinions are subject to change. Past performance is not indicative of future results and all investments involve the risk of loss of principal. For information on how these general principles apply to your situation, consult an investment professional.

Article Topic Specialist: Beth Jacobsen

Beth is a Trust Officer with SVA Trust Company, LLC. She administers trusts and other fiduciary accounts for high net worth clients and their families. This includes trusts and other individually managed accounts as well as trust services without investment management.

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