What Is A “Living” Will?

Most people have a pretty good idea of what a will is and does, but sometimes the word “living” gets tacked onto it, and that can be confusing. Just what is a living will? And how is it different from a regular will?

In Mississippi, a will is used to carry out your wishes after you have passed away, while a living will is an informal term for an Advance Health-Care Directive. An Advance Health-Care Directive is a legal document that protects your right to refuse medical treatment you do not want, or to request treatment you do want, in the event you lose the ability to make such decisions for yourself. Creating an Advance Health-Care Directive is an important part of the estate planning process.

Empowering Another Person To Act On Your Behalf

One of the great things about an Advance Health-Care Directive is that it allows you to prepare for the worst but still live your best life. Until a doctor determines that you are no longer able to make decisions about your healthcare for yourself, your Advance Health-Care Directive document will lay in a file untouched. Nobody gets the power to make decisions on your behalf until you absolutely cannot act on your own.

Who is going to make decisions on your behalf? That’s your choice! The Advance Health-Care Directive allows you to appoint whoever you want as your agent. Most people choose a family member or close friend as their agent.

No matter who you choose as your agent, make sure they know you have picked them! Have a conversation about what you are asking them to do, and make sure they know your opinions about end of life care.

Setting Some Boundaries

Although it is important for you to have a conversation with your agent about your healthcare preferences, the second part of the Advance Health-Care Directive allows you to give some specific instructions about your care. You can:

  1. Consent or refuse consent to any care, treatment, service, or procedure to maintain, diagnose, or otherwise affect a physical or mental condition.
  2. Select or discharge health-care providers and institutions.
  3. Approve or disapprove diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, programs of medication, and orders not to resuscitate.
  4. Direct the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration and all other forms of health care.
  5. State your organ donation preferences.

Once the form is completed and signed, it is important to make copies of it, and give them to your agent, your family, and your healthcare providers so that the form is available in the event of an emergency. You may also want to give copies to close friends or religious leaders.

Don’t Hesitate To Ask For Help

Picking an agent and figuring out what you do and do not want them to do on your behalf is challenging. And it does not help that the Advance Health-Care Directive is sometimes called a Power of Attorney document or a Living Will. Our office is happy to help you wade through the ocean of legal terms, and will always take the time to explain things until they make sense. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you ever need help sorting through the documents you already have, or figuring out what you still need.