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When do I need a living will?

A living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive or healthcare declaration, is a legal document that outlines your preferences regarding medical treatments and end-of-life care in case you become unable to communicate or make decisions about your medical treatment. You may consider having a living will in the following situations:

  1. Healthcare Preferences: You want to make your healthcare preferences known and ensure that your wishes for medical treatment are followed, especially if you have strong convictions about certain treatments or procedures, such as life support or resuscitation.
  1. Avoiding Family Conflicts: A living will can help prevent family disputes and reduce the burden on your loved ones by providing clear guidance on your healthcare decisions. This document can be especially valuable if your family members have differing views on medical treatment.
  1. Complex Medical Conditions: If you have a chronic or serious medical condition that may require critical decisions about life-sustaining treatment, a living will can specify your preferences in advance.
  1. Terminal Illness: If you have a terminal illness and wish to outline your desires regarding end-of-life care, including the use of life support or the withholding of certain treatments, a living will can communicate these choices to your healthcare providers.
  1. A Desire to Avoid Overtreatment: Some individuals are concerned about receiving unnecessary or overly aggressive medical treatment, particularly if their prognosis is poor. A living will can articulate your preference for a more conservative approach to medical care.
  1. Ensuring Your Values Are Respected: If your healthcare decisions are influenced by religious, ethical, or personal beliefs, a living will can help ensure that these values are respected when making medical decisions on your behalf.
  1. Appointing a Healthcare Proxy: In many cases, a living will is accompanied by the appointment of a healthcare proxy or healthcare agent, who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot. This individual should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes and act in your best interests.
  1. Peace of Mind: Having a living will can provide peace of mind, knowing that your preferences for medical treatment are documented and will be honored even if you cannot communicate them at the time.

It’s important to consult with an attorney or healthcare professional when creating a living will to ensure that it complies with your state’s laws and reflects your specific wishes accurately. Additionally, make sure to discuss your living will and healthcare preferences with your loved ones and provide copies to your healthcare providers, so they are aware of your wishes in case they need to make medical decisions on your behalf. Keep your living will up to date to reflect any changes in your healthcare preferences over time.

The law office of elder law attorney Scott C. Painter, P.C., is located in Wyomissing (outside of Reading, PA, in Berks County,) and offers trusted legal services in the areas of elder law, including nursing home planning, trust and estate services, and veterans benefits. Scott C. Painter is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®), and he is also a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).
If you have an issue or question, we encourage you to call us. With legal matters, time is of the essence. Call us for a consultation at 610-378-5140. The $300 consultation fee is waived if Attorney Painter is retained to perform services.