The living will: What you should know

People who create a living will are able to express their wishes regarding medical care when they can no longer voice their decisions.

While people may have certain plans in place, unexpected events can occur that may change the course of life. Some people may choose to create a living will as a way to prepare for a time when they are unable to make crucial decisions for themselves. Also referred to as an advance health care directive, a living will can help to ensure that others know how to care for a loved one when that person is not able to voice his or her medical preferences. Although these legally binding contracts are so important to people and their families during such a hard time, a surprising number of people have yet to create a living will.

Benefits of a living will

Whether a person becomes involved in a catastrophic car accident or is struck by a sudden illness, any major decisions that must be made regarding medical care are often left in the hands of friends and/or family members. When a person has executed a living will, it can take some of the pressure off of loved ones and reassure them that the decisions being made are in line with the incapacitated person's wishes. Furthermore, a living will may keep a family from spending an excessive amount of money on hospitals and critical care when the ailing person did not want to receive that type of care.

For example, people who become incapacitated and are put on life support may have a living will instructing medical professionals to remove them from life sustaining equipment after a certain period of time has elapsed. If a living will did not exist, the person may be kept on life support indefinitely, which can create a serious mental, physical and financial hardship for his or her family members.

People who wish to create a living will must be mentally capable of drafting the document. According to pbs.org, there are certain requirements that must be met before medical professionals can carry out the actions specified in the living will. In some cases, several physicians must approve the fact that the incapacitated person is truly terminal and unable to make his or her own decisions.

Getting it taken care of

If you have put off creating a living will because you have questions about it or you simply don't have the time to have it legally drafted, you may want to consider making the task more of a priority. You never know when something tragic will happen and you may be left unable to express your wishes to medical staff and your loved ones. A living will can act as your voice when you no longer have one. A Massachusetts attorney who has experience handling living wills may be helpful in answering your questions and initiating the living will process.