A living will — also called a “directive to physicians” or an “advance directive” — is different from a last will and testament. The latter determines division of property and assets after a person’s death while the former is a document that makes an individual’s wishes known concerning future medical care in the event illness incapacitates his or her ability to make decisions. Establishing a living will is an essential part of the estate planning process, since it can eliminate uncertainty and remove the burden of decision from your loved ones in the event of your illness. If you have decided to take proactive action by creating a living will, then a lawyer with experience in drafting living wills can help.
The local California living will attorney at Cal-Probate, Daniel Tripathi, has experience in living will and probate matters; he has been representing fellow southern Californians for more than a decade. When it comes to the delicate matter of determining medical care expectations in the event of severe illness, Daniel excels at ensuring that all of his clients’ wants and needs are met while taking care of all the proper paperwork, leaving them with peace of mind to live their lives.
What Can a Living Will Do?
If you find yourself in the situation where a loved one is ill and no longer able to communicate, then the first thing to look into is whether he or she has a living will. If there is one, then all you can do is follow the wishes specified on the official document. If there is not a living will, then loved ones and medical professionals alike can be at a loss as to what the ill individual would want. Living wills can provide invaluable information when it comes to a person’s medical care. While understandably not a pleasant subject, it is a necessary one — and should be discussed sooner rather than later.
Here are the top three things that a living will can do:
- Provide information to loved ones and medical professionals. If you have filed an official living will, your loved one and doctors will be able to carry out your exact wishes to your last breath. When there is no living will to refer to, however, loved ones are left to make the decision about how to proceed with your medical care. This is an overwhelming — and wholly avoidable — situation and often lead to heated arguments that can wind up in court.
- Lay out specific instructions regarding your medical care. These instructions can include a wide range of requests. They can include anything from religious requests to around-the-clock “palliative care” (meaning pain medicine is administered whenever necessary to ease pain and suffering) to a specified timeframe in which you want to be kept on life support. You can also request or deny any specific medical procedures that may be performed. The more details you lay out, the better — that way, there is little room for interpretation. However, the ability to lay out personal instructions varies by state; your living will lawyer can explain the specifics to you.
- Provide peace of mind. While no one likes thinking about the prospect of death, once you make preparations for the future, it feels like a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders. That being said, do not go through the effort of drafting a living will and then put it somewhere no one can find it. Ideally, you, your attorney and one or more family members should have a copy of your living will.
All in all, not only will filing an official living will provide you with peace of mind, but it will provide your family with comfort later on knowing that they are carrying out your exact wishes. Be aware that some limitations might exist regarding what instructions can be left; for example, in some states, a living will cannot specify that a person’s food and water be stopped. Your living will attorney can discuss what, if any, limitations pertain to you and how they affect your living will.
Do I Need to Establish a Living Trust If I Have a Living Will?
A living trust — also referred to as a “revocable living trust” because it can be changed at any time during a person’s life — is similar to a last will and testament in that it can protect and give instructions concerning your property and assets after you die. However, they are not the same thing. The difference between a living trust and a living will is that a living will actually protects you in the event that you become incapacitated before your actual death. A living trust is established during your life and contains directives that apply after your death.
Once a living trust has been established, assets are then put into the trust with designated beneficiaries assigned to them. This is often a good failsafe to have in addition to a living will and can keep families out of potentially heated court proceedings.
As an added safeguard, you can grant someone close to you power of attorney privileges. This means that this someone — often referred to as a “health care agent” and/or “surrogate” — has exclusive rights to make healthcare decisions for you in the event that you become unable to make your own.
Questions? Contact a California Living Will Attorney Today
Being able to give a loved one exactly what they want in their last days can potentially help surviving family members gain some closure. Our experienced local California living will attorney can answer all of your questions regarding living wills and trusts as well as granting power of attorney. Contact us today to discuss the details of your case and how we can help you.