A living will is another one of the five estate planning documents that everyone should have (the others are a will, power of attorney, medical power of attorney and HIPAA authorization). Heaven forbid, but if you ever became incapacitated and diagnosed with a terminal illness or an irreversible condition, then a living a will would let your doctor know what kind of medical treatments you would like administered to you. Basically you get to choose between comfort treatment only or all life-sustaining treatments available. Not only does this help ensure that your wishes are followed, but it removes the horrible burden from your family members of having to make those gut-wrenching decisions themselves. Likewise, it helps prevent possible disagreements between family members about what should be done.
Many people have asked me what’s the difference between a living will and a medical power of attorney, and it’s a good question. A medical power of attorney covers a much broader range of healthcare decisions in that you don’t have to be suffering from a terminal or irreversible condition in order for your designated agent to make medical decisions for you. A living will only concerns situations where you are terminally ill or have an irreversible condition and you’re unable to communicate your wishes for treatment.
There can be overlap between a medical power of attorney and a living will depending on how the medical power of attorney is written, but it’s still best to always also have a living will just in case. By having a living will you get to very clearly spell out to your doctor what kinds of treatments you would like in such an extreme situation.