Oftentimes when people hear the word “will” in a legal capacity, their first thought is a last will and testament. But there is another type of will that is equally important, a living will.

In this article we will cover what a living will is. Additionally, learn the difference between a last will and testament and a living will.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a document that outlines what people need to know about end of life care. It informs both physicians and family members of your desires.

Nobody likes to consider situations where they are dying and can’t make their own decisions, which makes a living will all the more important. It establishes what your wishes are, and is a great way to communicate to other people what those wishes are.

A living will transmits how you want possible end of life or emergency medical treatment to be administered or not administered. The document records your desires while you are still of sound mind. Essentially, it is how present you can take care of future you. Specificity is key. The more specific your living will is in instructions, the easier it is for your designated health care surrogate and physicians to follow.

Above all, a living will opens a door to inform your healthcare surrogate or surrogates of your medical wishes. Then, the document is a legal backup to what your surrogate is communicating to your physicians.

How Does a Living Will Differentiate from a Last Will & Testament?

A living will is a document that comes into play while the writer is still living but incapacitated. This can be due to some sort of unexpected procedure or an emergency, such as a car accident.

Meanwhile a last will and testament comes into consideration if the writer passes away or is legally declared dead.

Both documents focus on the writer’s wishes, but in very different capacities. Living wills are a health care advanced directive. Which means that it covers medical decisions, including whether or not to be kept alive artificially. A last will and testament is an estate planning document that instructs the legal system how the writer wants their property divided once they have passed.

What Should I Put in a Living Will?

One of the most important things to decide whether or not to appoint someone with durable power of attorney. This person will be the one making decisions for you in case something comes up that is outside of your living will. Most attorneys will suggest appointing someone with durable power of attorney, and to make that person a family member or spouse.

Ideally, doctors would have access to your medical records, but in the case of an emergency they do not have time. When you appoint a power of attorney, ensure that person knows about previous medical procedures and any medical allergies you may have.

Additionally, make your wishes known concerning life-sustaining treatment. Options such as CPR/fibrillation, breathing tubes, feeding/hydration tubes, dialysis, and pain killers should all be considered. Specifications about pain medication are increasingly common with the growing crisis surrounding prescription drugs and addiction.