7 questions to ask your attorney before creating a living will
Written by Michelle N. Ogborne

7 questions to ask your attorney before creating a living will

Every day in Arizona, doctors and loved ones face difficult decisions on medical care during the end of a patient’s life. Often, this happens with patients who are unconscious or unable to decide for themselves. Who chooses what care to provide? The decision can be painful without any guidance. If the person has a living will, though, it becomes less complicated.

A living will is an advanced health care directive for your end of life health care decisions. It lets you lay out what care you want and what you do not. Preparing it can be emotional. However, if you have one, it can take a great deal of stress away from those you love. Creating this document takes some of the tough decisions off of your loved ones’ plate. They’ll know that even though carrying out the directive is hard, your wishes are respected.

If you are considering a living will, be ready to ask your attorney the following questions.

1. What does a living will cover?

Your living will provides instructions on how you want your end of life care to proceed. You may want to end or limit care at a particular point. You may want to only receive pain treatment, rather than being kept alive on life support.

2. Do I really need one?

If you want to take the difficult medical decisions out of your loved ones’ hands, you should create a living will. If you feel strongly about when you should stop receiving treatment, for cost or moral reasons, you should have the document that specifies that. A living will ensures your doctors know what you want them to do.

3. Who decides for me?

Part of the point of your living will is to keep others from having to make key decisions during an emotional time. A health care power of attorney document lets you determine who will make important decisions about your care. You can use the combination of the documents to give yourself peace of mind that someone you trust will carry out your wishes.

4. When does it kick in?

Your living will doesn’t kick in unless your doctor determines you’re unable to make or communicate your wishes. Until then, you have the right to make your own decisions. This document shouldn’t cut off your ability to make decisions immediately; it merely gives you a way to communicate your wishes when the time comes that you’re unable.

5. What if I want care?

Your living will communicates what you want for your end of life medical care. Many see it as a way to get doctors to cut off treatment, but it’s not just for that purpose. Your attorney will help you lay out when you want to stop medical intervention, as well as when you want to continue care.

6. Where do I keep it?

After you prepare your living will, give a copy to your doctor and keep the original in a safe place in your home. If you have a health care power of attorney, that person should have a copy as well. The key is to ensure anyone who may need it has a copy before it’s needed.

7. Can I change my mind?

Since a living will doesn’t kick in until you’re unable to communicate your wishes, you can make changes. If you have a living will, you should revisit it from time to time. Your attorney can help you update it and make sure it accurately identifies what you want.

Contact Ogborne Law to discuss all of your estate planning and end of life directives.