Question: A client asked me whether she needed a living will. She and her husband prepared wills many years ago and wanted to know “whether a living will is the same as our Last Will and Testament?”
Answer: No, they are not the same. This is a fairly common question even though living wills and testamentary wills are very different. A testementary will, commonly just called a will, is a legal document that directs how your estate will be distributed after you die. Living wills, on the other hand, have nothing to do with your estate, but instead address your healthcare and end-of-life needs while you are still living — hence it is called a “Living Will.”
Although no one expects it will happen to them, many people suffer catastrophic injuries or illnesses that render them incapable of communicating their healthcare wishes to others. Family members confronted with a loved one in such a situation are often conflicted as to the type of medical care that should be provided. It is not uncommon for one family member to push for life sustaining measures, while another pushes for only palliative care. Sadly, this scenario lends itself to family conflict at an already stressful time.
Rather than force your family to make decisions for you, your living will tells your family and medical providers precisely the type of treatment you want to have in the event that you become unable to voice your wishes. You may want to have life sustaining treatent, or direct that all life sustaining measures withdrawn. You could direct that no emergency procedures be used to extend your life.
In the event that you or someone you know needs a “Living Will” or other estate document, please do not hesitate to let us know. We will be glad to assist you.
Sheldon Levitt is a partner and attorney at Winegrad, Hess, Friedman & Levitt, LLC. Send any questions to email@example.com
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