What is a Living Will? Is it the same as a “Will” and why do I need them?

Both documents, a Living Will and a Will, are important for different reasons, and it is important that when preparing them, you consult with an attorney to make sure that each is prepared according to the requirements of the state law. A Living Will and a Will are not the same document and should not be confused. A Living Will is a document that lets healthcare providers and the people making your medical decisions know what kind of medical treatment you would want, or not want, if you become unable to communicate, either due to a life-threatening injury or terminal illness.

Many people are aware of the case of Terri Schiavo, a young woman who suffered from an illness that put her in a persistent vegetative state. Since she did not have a Living Will, she remained living in this state for 15 years while her family fought in court over whether continuing healthcare treatment should be provided. A Living Will could prevent this from happening since it is a legal document that sets out what life-sustaining measures you would want to be administered if you were to fall into the same state. Provisions of a Living Will include whether or not to continue life support and whether or not to provide artificial nutrition and hydration if you are in an irreversible coma or a persistent vegetative state.

You can also include any other healthcare provisions you would want to be honored if you were to fall critically ill and be unable to communicate. By creating a Living Will, you can take the pain and pressure away from loved ones who would have to make those difficult decisions should anything happen to you. Along with creating a Living Will, you should also consider creating a Medical Power of Attorney, which would appoint a person to be your “agent,” thereby allowing that person to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to communicate. A Will, on the other hand, is a legal document that comes into effect after you pass away and describes how you want your assets distributed.