You may have a last will and testament – the document which sets out what you want to happen with your assets after you pass away – but do you have a living will? Here’s everything you need to know about this important document…
What Is A Living Will?
A living will is another term for an advance decision. This is a document which expresses your wishes if there came a time when you were unable to make or communicate your own decisions. It allows you to refuse certain treatments – even if this might lead to your death. The advance decision, or living will, is legally binding, but will only be used if you lose the capacity to make or communicate your decisions.
An advance decision can only be used to refuse certain treatment – it can’t be used to request a particular treatment and it can’t be used to ask for your life to be ended.
What Is An Advance Statement?
An advance statement can be written and kept with your living will, but it isn’t legally binding. The advance statement can be used to share your likes and dislikes, and things that are important to you. If you need to go into care, the advance statement should be used by those involved to ensure that you are comfortable. It can include anything, such as:
- Any dietary requirements
- Food you like and dislike
- The type of music you like
- Your religious beliefs
- Who you would like to visit you
- Who you want to be consulted about your care
Writing A Living Will And Advance Statement
Although your advance decision (or living will) doesn’t need to be in writing unless you are refusing potentially life-sustaining treatment, it is good practice to write it down and distribute it to your loved ones. Your GP will also need to know about it so that it can be included in your medical notes. You can change it at any time, just make sure that any amendments are signed and dated.
Advance decisions that refuse life-sustaining treatment must be in writing. They must also be signed, witnessed and include the statement ‘even if life is at risk as a result’.
Your advance statement can be written in any way that suits you, but you must make sure that your GP and anyone else involved in your medical care has a copy.
Getting Legal Advice
It is a good idea to get legal advice before setting up an advance decision. This is particularly the case if you have a power of attorney, because the rules about how the two interact can be very complicated.
A solicitor will be able to advise how to ensure that your wishes are upheld, and how to avoid any potential disagreements. They will also be able to check your advance decision and make sure that you are not requesting anything that a doctor wouldn’t be able to carry out.