What is a Living Will?
Living Will is a term that is used to describe documents that give medical staff information about a patients treatment preferences at the end of their life. In truth the documents could be a Living Will, and Advance Decision or Directive or a DNR (do not resuscitate) document. They all achieve similar ends but are subtly different.
In England and Wales, people may make an advance directive (decision) under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This is only for an advance refusal of treatment for when the person lacks mental capacity; to be legally binding, the advance decision must be specific about the treatment that is being refused and the circumstances in which the refusal will apply. To be valid, the person must have been competent and understood the decision when they signed the directive. Where the patient’s advance decision relates to a refusal of life-prolonging treatment this must be recorded in writing and witnessed.
A Living Will or an Advanced Decision lets those around you know what your wishes are even if you cannot communicate them yourself. Whilst these documents are not generally legally binding they are both recognised and respected by medical professionals as a authoritative expression of your wishes for treatment at the end of life.
Most people would like to think that their last days will be happy and peaceful and spent with friends and family. Many are also fearful that the medical treatment that they will recieve at that time may lead to unnecessary suffering.
A large proportion of our clients express the wish that they want to be ‘let go with a bit of dignity’ when their time comes.
Any advance decision is legally binding providing that:
The patient is an adult
The patient was competent and properly informed when reaching the decision
It is clearly applicable to the present circumstances
And there is no reason to believe that the patient has changed his or her mind.
If an advance decision does not meet these criterion but appears to set out a clear indication of the patient’s wishes, it will not be legally binding but should be taken into consideration in determining the patient’s best interests.
Living Wills and LPA’s
Clients often think that a living will is an adequate substitute for a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney. It isn’t. An LPA for Health and Welfare deals with a much broader range of issues, from authorising a loved one to speak with your doctors or local authority on your behalf to dealing with a huge range of care issues. Your living will only deals with end of life issues. Visit our page on Lasting Powers of Attorney for more information on these important documents.
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The benefits of using Will and Probate Services to make a Living Will are:
Free initial advice and guidance on writing a Living Will or Advanced Directive
Evening Telephone appointments for your convenience
Home visits available
Fixed prices agreed upfront for the writing of your Living Will or Advanced Directive
Support for Executors after you pass away