LIVING WILL

What is a Living Will?

A living will is written statement detailing a person's desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent, especially an advance directive.  A living will contains an individual’s preferences concerning matters such as the application of life supporting medical treatment in the event of severe disability or life support.  

 

A Living Will tells your health care professional whether you want death-delaying procedures used if you have a terminal condition and are unable to state your wishes. A Living Will, unlike a health care power of attorney, only applies if you have a terminal condition. A terminal condition means an incurable and irreversible condition such that death is imminent and the application of any death delaying procedures serves only to prolong the dying process.  For more information see the free article: Living Will.

What is the difference between a Last Will and Testament and a Living Will?

A Last Will and Testament and a Living Will are entirely different legal instruments.  A  Last Will and Testament is a document in which you provide instructions about the distribution of your property after you die.  A Living Will is a completely separate legal instrument that addresses life-sustaining medical treatment while you are still alive, such as if you become severely disabled or are placed on life support.

For more information, see articles: Wills 101 and Trusts 101 included in the free educational materials.

What is the difference between a Living Trust and a Living Will?

A Living Trust and Living Will are both used in estate planning. However, a trust is intended to secure assets and control property, whereas a Living Will is a document used to spell out your medical wishes for your family and health care representatives if you suddenly become incapacitated.  A Living Trust specifies the control of property both during and after the creator’s life, while a Living Will addresses life-sustaining medical treatment while you are still alive, such as if you become severely disabled or are placed on life support.

What is the difference between a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney?

A Durable Medical Power of Attorney gives a third party, acting as your agent, the authority to make certain health care decisions for you.  A Living Will contains your wishes specifically, and those decisions are not left up to the discretion of your agent.  Since a Living Will addresses life-sustaining medical treatments while you are still alive, such as if you become severely disabled or are placed on life support, some individuals wish to make these decisions ahead of time in a Living Will in order to save the individual’s family member from making the difficult choice.

Are there any Limits on a Living Will in Illinois?

A Living Will, unlike a health care power of attorney, only applies if you have a terminal condition.  Even if you sign a Living Will, food and water cannot be withdrawn if it would be the only cause of death. Also, if you are pregnant and your health care professional thinks you could have a live birth, your Living Will cannot go into effect.

If I have a Health Care Power of Attorney, should I still consider having a Living Will?

Yes.  A Durable Medical Power of Attorney gives a third party, acting as your agent, the authority to make certain health care decisions for you.  A Living Will contains your wishes specifically, and those decisions are not left up to the discretion of your agent.  Since a Living Will addresses life-sustaining medical treatments while you are still alive, such as if you become severely disabled or are placed on life support, some individuals wish to make these decisions ahead of time in a Living Will in order to save the individual’s family member from making the difficult choice.

Do I need a witness when I sign my Living Will?

Yes.  Two people must witness your signing of the Living Will. Your health care professional cannot be a witness.  Your health care professional cannot be a witness. 

Do I need to tell my doctor or health care provider about my Living Will?

Yes.  It is your responsibility to tell your health care professional if you have a Living Will.

Can I cancel or revoke my Living Will? If so, how?

Yes.  You can cancel your Living Will at any time, either by telling someone or by canceling it in writing.