While I thought that I was learning how to live,
I have been learning how to die.
I know, I know… no one wants to talk about this stuff. But we are responsible adults, so we must. A few weeks ago, we talked about the difference between a living will and a living trust. I want to continue that conversation with you today and talk about something that is hard for us to face up to… our frailty. Preparing living wills is not an idea that is readily welcomed by most people. In fact, most people even dread the idea of talking about this task.
But, there is something that may help alleviate some of the unpleasantness in the whole situation. You can usually get all the forms that you need in the form of a living will kit, which can provide some guidance and assistance in the drafting of a living will minus the distasteful feeling of admitting the possibility that you may become ill to the point of incapacity.
A living will, which is also called an “advance directive”, is actually a legal document that declares a person’s preferences regarding long-term medical care at a time when he or she is no longer capable of making autonomous decisions. Living wills come in two varieties: general and statutory. The general living will asserts a personal wish without being consistent with any accepted standard. In contrast, the statutory will is a lawful form that coincides with the requirements of a particular state law concerning living wills.
Because there are legal implications of making a living will, it is highly recommended that you draw up one while you are still well, healthy and in full control of your mental faculties. There are a lot websites that offer information about this matter. From some, you can even download free templates for living wills so you can perform a run through. I would still recommend that you seek professional advice when you actually draft the final one.
Since a living will is also considered a personal document, the contents of it will vary from one case to another. However, there are essential prerequisites for it to be considered legal. Of course, you should double-check these items with you state laws or personal attorney.
- Legal competence of the maker (owner) of the living will should be established.
- The document should be signed by the maker (owner) and by two witnesses to authenticate it. In a case where the maker is incapable of signing, he or she may ask a representative to do so instead. The witnesses should also be of legal age, usually 18 years old or over. Also, the signing representative should not be one of the two witnesses.
- The date should be indicated and notarization, if the state requires it.
- The directives contained in the living will should be consistent with the laws of your particular state.
As much as possible, you should discuss your living will and desires with your family or closest friends. You may even want to assign someone specific to act or make decisions on your behalf in case you become incapacitated.
Additionally, copies of the living will should be given to the maker’s family members, the attending physician, the local and most commonly used hospital/nursing home, and other persons involved in your medical care. A duplicate may also be submitted to a living will registry that will take care of the necessary distribution for a fee.
Living wills may also be changed or modified. If you decide to make changes, you should notify and furnish copies to all the recipients of your previous living will. And all copies of the former document should be consequently destroyed.
The preparation of living wills is an emotional matter. Even the calmest and most reasonable person may find it difficult to fully concentrate on this task. That is why it is important to get all the possible assistance, both professionally and emotionally, that you need when drafting a legal document such as this important one.