A Living Will is not an accurately-named document. I say this for two reasons.
First, most people assume a “will” of any kind gives property away. A Living Will does not give away property at all.
Secondly, though it is ironic, a Living Will only deals only with dying.
In fact, for a Living Will to come into play, you must be considered terminal, and in such a state that nothing can be done to promote your recovery. In this limited circumstance, a Living Will states essentially that no heroic measures or machines will be used to simply prolong life artificially. This is usually taken to mean that you do no wish to be hooked up to a heart or lung machine indefinitely, after being declared terminal.
In addition, a good Living Will will also address organ donation. By the way, the organ donor’s family does not have to pay for costs related to preservation and donation. It is billed to the recipient’s family.
Finally, a Living Will should also contain a special statement about the discontinuance of nutrition. In the famed Terry Schiavo case currently pending in Florida, there is a disagreement as to what Terry’s wishes were before she was rendered unable to communicate by a brain injury in 1990.
She has remained on nutritional support tubes virtually ever since. There continues to be a vigorous debate as to her cognitive ability. This is something I have always brought up with my Living Will clients.
A Living Will is not at all about Living, as much as it is about facing your step into eternity on terms that have been well thought out. The other choice is placing that burden on your next of kin at a very difficult time.
There is a world of difference between having your kids make the decision to “unplug” you, and them just enforcing your decision as written in your Living Will.
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