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  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

What is the Purpose of a Living Will?

Updated: Apr 13

Couple with a lawyer creating their living will

A living will is a legally binding written document outlining specific medical treatments to be administered or avoided to sustain life. It also delineates your preferences regarding various medical choices, such as pain management and organ donation. When determining your preferences, reflect on your values, considering the importance of independence and self-sufficiency. Identify circumstances that might make you feel that life is no longer worthwhile. Clarify your stance on life extension through treatment – in specific situations, all scenarios, or only when a cure is feasible. 

Types of Living Wills

Depending on the state, living wills may go by alternative names like medical or advance healthcare directives (AHCD). These documents are invaluable for addressing end-of-life care decisions. However, it's crucial to acknowledge their limitations. Living wills address situations involving terminal illnesses, permanent unconsciousness, or cognitive decline. Despite their importance in these contexts, they may not comprehensively cover various medical scenarios or anticipate potential treatment side effects.

Individuals must consider supplementing their living wills with additional healthcare directives catering to a broader array of medical conditions and circumstances. Moreover, communicating with healthcare providers and periodically reviewing and updating these documents ensures that they accurately reflect your current preferences and values. This proactive approach enhances the effectiveness of advance care planning and provides a more comprehensive and personalized representation of your healthcare wishes.

Main Benefits of a Living Will

A living will offer several key advantages, providing assurance and preparation for unforeseen events or emergencies. Here are some of the specific benefits associated with having a living will:

  • Appoint a medical power of attorney - Designate an individual as your Medical Power of Attorney who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so yourself. Choosing someone trustworthy and capable of maintaining composure during stressful situations is advisable, as well as working in tandem with healthcare providers based on the instructions outlined in your living will.

  • Prevents arguments among family members—By clearly outlining your medical preferences in advance, a living will helps avoid potential disagreements among family members regarding the appropriate course of action in critical situations.

  • Reduces the burden of decision-making for caretakers - Having a living will alleviate the burden on caretakers by providing clear guidance on your healthcare preferences, making decision-making less stressful and more straightforward for those responsible for your care.

  • Refuses any treatments you wouldn't want—Clearly express your treatment preferences to ensure that you receive medical care aligned with your wishes and avoid any interventions you may find undesirable.

  • Provides peace of mind - The peace of mind that comes with a living will stems from the assurance that you will receive the medical care you desire, even if you cannot communicate your preferences.

Trust Experts

Engaging with experienced professionals guarantees careful deliberation regarding living wills and advanced medical directives. Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates provides valuable guidance and support to assist individuals in making well-informed decisions that align with their specific circumstances. Initiate the process by scheduling a complimentary consultation to discover how their expertise can lead you in securing your future and maintaining the fidelity of your wishes.

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