What Are Living Wills?


Living wills serve as legal and medical guidance documents: they outline specific conditions under which people may or may not choose to remain alive, including the type and extent of medical treatments individualsdesire for life-threatening situations. Living wills are also calledadvanced directives. People may complete these wills at any age; older adults frequently complete living wills, but younger adults benefit from completing them, too, as unforeseen medical situations may arise at any time.

Living wills outline personal preferences for medical care following sudden illnesses, severe injuries and other maladies. These wills traditionally exist in writing. Onceactivated,family members and relatives may not override the decisions set forth by individuals in their living wills should specified medical emergencies arise. Living wills essentially guard the wishes of those completing them. They commonly cover topics such as resuscitation, dialysis, feeding,breathing tubes, palliative care and lifesaving medications.

While some people complete living wills themselves, some individualscreate wills authorizing others to make medical decisions on their behalf. These wills, called power of attorney, grant legal and medical experts decision-making power following unforeseen medical situations. They might also appoint a healthcare agent, such as spouse or family member, to make medical decisions for the individual in emergency situations.