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Nine Things To Know About Living Wills

Nine Things To Know About Living Wills

Your living will is an essential part of your estate plan to help you and your family in an emergency. An estate plan helps prevent quarrels over treatment options to employ during a heightened emotional time. No one will have to guess your choices, which may even prevent quarrels over treatment options to employ during a heightened emotional time. If you are over 18, we encourage you to create a living will so that your wishes will be known if an accident incapacitates you or an illness is so severe that you could not make decisions on your behalf. Not sure where to start? Here are nine things to know about living wills.

1. Rules Vary by State

The name of a “living will” can change depending on which state you are located in. This document is interchangeable with medical directives, advance healthcare directives, or healthcare proxies. Some states require two witnesses for their documents, others no witnesses. If you often cross state borders it is important to check with each state to ensure that your documents are valid there as well

2. All Adults Need A Living Will

The young adult life is full of excitement and new experiences, but it can also be full of surprises. We all have to prepare for the unexpected and even if you are young, life doesn’t always go according to plan. If something were to happen where you couldn’t make decisions for yourself due to age or illness, having a living will can help ensure that your family is aware of your wishes. People as young as 18 can apply for a living will.

3. Binding Legal Documents

In order to be legally effective, your living will must be properly prepared. Word of mouth or simply telling your next of kin will not be enough in an actual situation. Complying with the laws of your respective state can help you begin to lay out your preferences if you are to need life-saving healthcare. In this stage, it is important to consult a lawyer to help you create and legalize your living will.

4. Incapacitations are Determined by Doctors

Your living will does not go into effect until the doctors determine that you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. It is up to your physician to determine if your physical state is bad enough to consider your living will. This decision must also be corroborated by a secondary doctor. This means that no one besides a physician can deem you unfit to make decisions for yourself. Because of this, your living will will not go into effect until that decision has been made. A conversation with your living will and healthcare proxy can ensure your needs are met and that they will comply with your legally documented medical decisions.

5. Your Living Will Can Be Changed Anytime

Changing or revoking your living will is completely up to you. You may always change your mind and create a new living will. Don’t forget that destroying the first copy of your living will won’t cancel it, as it is a legal document. If you find yourself in need of new medical treatment and have changed your mind about what treatments should be performed, it is time to update your living will.

6. “Pulling the Plug”

A living will allows you to express your wishes to doctors and family members if you are incapacitated. You can avoid being kept alive by machines in life-threatening situations as well as select what type of care and treatments you want if you are terminally ill or injured. Living wills can also help people who are not terminally ill avoid the pain and discomfort of medical procedures and treatments that hold no promise of helping their recovery.

7. Healthcare Agents and Living Wills

For people who have already made a living will or advanced directive, naming your health care agent is the next step. This person takes care of important health decisions on your behalf when you are unable to. The person should be able to communicate with your doctors and make reasonable decisions during stressful emergencies. Before appointing a healthcare agent, make sure they are willing to take on this responsibility and communicate your wishes as they are stated in your living will. Your agent can be anyone you choose—except for the following:

8. Healthcare Power of Attorney

If you become sick, or if you have an accident that leaves you incapacitated, a healthcare power of attorney allows the person you designate to make medical decisions for you. Having this document on file is extremely important in any sort of medical emergency, but keep in mind that it does not replace a living will or advanced directive. If you’re looking to create a comprehensive estate plan, your attorney should be able to walk you through which documents are necessary within your state and how they differ from one another.

9. Will They Comply with my Living Will?

Of the nine things to know about living wills, this is the most common question. It is important to know that your doctor is not required to adhere to your living will. However, most do prefer to follow it. The best way to know that your wishes will be met is to discuss it with your doctors in advance. Your doctor has a lot of medical knowledge and understands aspects of care you may not include in your living will. They may point out critical questions, clarify points, or spot something you overlooked. If there is no meeting of the minds, you may transfer your care to another doctor willing to honor your wishes.


At Grand Strand Law Group, we are here to help you create your living will. Our professionals are aware of these nine things to know about living wills, plus more. We are here to help you every step of the legal way. Give us a call at 843.492.5422 and learn about living wills can resolve these situations before they can begin.

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