The purpose of the Living Will is to have documentation in place for that time when an individual might become unconscious (comatose) and need to communicate their treatment wishes to their healthcare team. This is called a ‘living will’ because it takes effect while the person is still alive (although comatose) in contrast to the testamentary will which takes place after death. This legal document only becomes active once two physicians certify that the patient is in an irreversible coma or other terminal condition with no reasonable hope for recovery.
A Living Will always includes a Healthcare Directive and may include naming a Power of Attorney as well. If a Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions is named then this person can override anything written in the Healthcare Directive portion of the Living Will. It’s still helpful to have the Healthcare Directive portion completed as it provides some guidance for the agent named to be your Attorney for Healthcare Decisions. It is possible to write-in additional instructions into the Healthcare Directive for specific medical procedures under certain scenarios should they arise. It is important to always update your Living Will if you move to a new state. You can revoke (cancel) the Living Will at any time by simply writing ‘canceled’ on it or tearing it up or creating a new one; you must notify anyone who might have a copy of the old one.
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