The Importance of Living Wills in Estate Planning

Advance directives allow specific actions to be taken on your behalf if you become incapacitated or unable to perform certain tasks. A living will is a common type of advance directive expressing your medical care and treatment preferences if you can’t communicate your desires. Living wills are used in situations when you’re unable to make medical decisions yourself, such as being in a persistent coma, suffering a traumatic injury, or being diagnosed with a terminal illness. A living will allows your loved ones to make well-informed medical decisions on your behalf. Below, we will explore the benefits of living wills and discuss how to make a living will part of your estate planning in Orlando.

Living Will vs. Last Will and Testament

Living wills and last will and testaments are separate documents that are an important part of estate planning. However, there are several key differences between a living will and a last will and testament. The primary difference is that living wills specify your preferences for medical treatments and end-life care while you’re still living, when you’re incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions for yourself. A last will and testament details how you’d like your possessions and assets distributed to your friends and family after you pass away. Both documents are a part of creating a comprehensive estate plan in Orlando and beyond.

Benefits of Having a Living Will

The benefit of having a living will is that it allows you to express your desires for medical treatments and end-of-life care if you cannot communicate those preferences yourself. Living wills allow you to speak to your family regarding your medical care when you can’t. Knowing they’re carrying out your desires gives your family peace of mind when making decisions on your behalf. Having a living will reduces the potential for conflict between family members who may disagree about your medical treatments. No one is left guessing your desires—they’re spelled out directly.

What You Should Include in a Living Will

Here’s what you should consider stating in your living will:

Preferences for Life-Saving Care

One of the primary topics you’ll want to cover in your living will is your preferences for providing or withholding life-support medical procedures such as ventilators, feeding tubes, dialysis machines, and CPR. You should also indicate how long you’d like to remain on life support before having it removed.

Appoint a Healthcare Surrogate

A healthcare surrogate is a point person you elect to make medical decisions on your behalf in situations that may not be explicitly stated in your living will. Your healthcare surrogate must be someone you and your family trust to act in your best interests. When creating your estate plan in Orlando, Florida, you can name a healthcare surrogate in your living will or create a separate advance directive document.

Pain Alleviation Preferences

You’ll want to state your preferences for comfort and pain alleviation when facing a terminal illness or medical emergency. Are there certain drugs you want to avoid? Are there natural alternatives to common pain-alleviating medication you’d prefer? You can answer these questions in this part of your living will.

End-of-Life Care

Your living will can also state your preferences for how you’d like to spend your final days, whether it’s at a medical facility, in hospice care, or at home.

Religious Preferences

If there are procedures or treatments you’d like to decline for religious reasons, you may want to state them in your living will so others know your intentions.

Organ Donation

While organ donation is put on most people’s driver’s licenses, you can elaborate and provide additional details about organ donation in your living will. You can discuss whether you’d like to donate your body to scientific research, donate specific organs, or other preferences.

What Happens if You Don’t Have a Living Will?

If you don’t have a living will, your family or appointed healthcare surrogate will be in charge of making medical decisions on your behalf. This could put undue strain on your family during a stressful time, leaving them with the burden of making decisions without knowing your wishes. They could also experience prolonged guilt and anxiety about whether they made the right decision. A living will can ease this burden and provide a guideline for your family to follow when you cannot communicate your desires yourself.

How to Create a Living Will in Florida

According to Florida Statute 765.302, living wills must be written and signed by you and two witnesses. One of the witnesses cannot be your spouse or a blood relative to be valid in Florida. After creating the document, you are responsible for letting your medical team and family know you have a living will. Send a copy to your primary care physician and other doctors you regularly visit. Keep a copy in a safe place and provide your family instructions on how to find it. Your living will goes into effect when a doctor legally determines you’re incapacitated, meaning you cannot make treatment-related decisions, understand the outcomes of these decisions, or communicate your decisions by any means.

Estate Planning in Orlando with The Boutty Law Firm

A living will is vital in creating a well-rounded estate plan in Orlando. Once created, it should be updated and reviewed regularly to ensure it reflects your desires. Whether you’re drafting your living will for the first time or would like to modify it, The Boutty Law Firm can help. We help residents throughout Orlando and Central Florida establish estate plans that communicate their wishes to family and friends while following all legal requirements. Call our Winter Park office at 407-622-1395 to schedule a consultation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What Our Clients Are Saying