What is a living Will?
A living Will, also known as an advanced directive or ADRT, is a legal document that expresses your wishes relating to medical treatment in the event that you are unable to make or communicate a decision due to accident or illness. Living Wills are legally binding, so your wishes will be honoured, even if they differ from those of your next of kin or care giver.
A living Will is different to a Last Will & Testament. Living Wills include instructions relating to your care whilst you are alive whereas any wishes mentioned in a standard Will come into effect after you pass away.
What is the purpose of a living Will and why is the document so important?
Choosing whether to make a living Will is a big decision which requires a lot of careful thought. Discussing the subject with family and friends can be extremely hard but including them in the process will help them to understand your wishes and the reasons for them, helping to avoid any unpleasant surprises or added pressure at an already difficult time.
If you have been in the position of having to make end of life decisions for a loved one, you will understand how tough it can be. This may be a contributing factor in deciding to make a living Will, removing the burden of these choices from your loved ones and avoiding any potential conflict or resentment if they disagree.
Whilst it might never seem like the right time to bring up the conversation, planning for the future now will allow your family complete peace of mind should the situation arise that they need to refer to the document.
Many people choose to create a living Will at the same time as other legal documents such as a health and welfare lasting power of attorney.
Creating a lasting power of attorney allows a representative of your choosing to be responsible for your care decisions should you lose mental capacity. Your appointed attorney can act on your behalf regarding life changing decisions such as care home placement and ongoing medical treatment.
A living Will focuses on the more difficult aspects of care, taking away medical decisions relating to life-sustaining treatment and when it should be withdrawn.
When creating a living Will, it is crucial to consider whether there are any treatments you would not want to receive and in what circumstances you wish to withdraw treatment, even if it could lead to your death. You should also make it clear which treatments you are happy to receive and when. Life-sustaining treatment includes CPR, ventilation, and certain medications.
A living Will cannot be used to request that your life is ended as euthanasia is illegal in the UK.
Making a living Will
There are some situations where a living Will can become invalid, so it’s essential to seek professional advice when creating one. Things that can invalidate your decisions include being under 18 years of age, not correctly specifying the types of treatments that are being refused or the circumstances when they are to be refused, and the document not being witnessed.
You can make a living Will as long as you have mental capacity to do so. If your advanced directive includes decisions relating to life-sustaining treatment, it is essential that it is put into writing. Once created, you should provide a copy to your next of kin and your medical providers so they are aware of any decisions and can add them to your medical records.
Any living Wills that include life-sustaining decisions should be signed, witnessed, and include a written statement that you understand withdrawal of treatment may result in your death.
When making a living Will or health and welfare lasting power of attorney, you may also choose to create an advanced statement. An advanced statement isn’t legally binding, instead it’s there to help your care givers provide dignity and make you feel as comfortable as possible whilst receiving care.
An advanced statement could include things such as where you wish to receive care i.e. your own home or a care home, dietary requirements, religious beliefs, routine, and who you would like to be informed about your care. Again, it is important to provide a copy to your GP or health care team.
If you require assistance with creating a living Will, contact the expert team at Paradigm Wills & Legal Services today on 0800 999 7750.