A living will, sometimes called an advanced directive, provides directions for your loved ones and health care providers as to your wishes concerning your end-of-life medical care. It is an important part of estate planning and is a written statement of your wishes. It is different from a health care proxy in that it does not appoint an agent on your behalf, but instead allows you to express your wishes in case of a medical emergency.

Living Wills, Health Care Proxy, and Estate Planning

It’s important that everyone over the age of 18 have a living will. Even if you do no other estate planning, a living will is necessary to ensure your loved ones know what to do should you face the unthinkable.

Many people have both a living will and a health care proxy to ensure loved ones and health care providers have comprehensive guidance concerning their wishes. Though living wills and other documents regarding medical directives are often arranged during estate planning, they are different from a last will and testament, do not involve asset distribution, and must be separate from a person’s will or other estate planning tools.

A living will can be revoked by you at any time, so if you were to change your mind about the type of care you would want at the end of your life, you are legally entitled to make changes to the document. Living wills can become effective immediately or at the point in which you are no longer able to communicate your wishes.

Honoring Your Last Wishes

For the most part, living wills allow your health care agents and medical care providers to determine what life saving measures should be taken, if any, should you become incapacitated. Directives that might be covered in a living will include:

  • Use of artificial respiration (breathing machines)
  • Use of artificial nutrition and hydration (feeding tubes, IV drips)
  • Use of electric shock therapy
  • Surgical decisions
  • Bodily tissue and organ donation

Authority granted through a living will ends with the death of the principal, except for decisions regarding autopsy and organ donation.

If you would like to create a living will or you have questions about the process, contact us at the Law Offices of Elan Wurtzel at 516.822.7866.

Sources: New York Living Wills and Article 29C