In life, unforeseen circumstances transpire now and then. Medical insurance or a medical fund is one significant way to manage health issues. Yes, insurance is good, but you also need a living will to direct how your family will handle medical care decisions in incapacitation or coma. Let’s get into what the living will entails, how to write one, and the legal requirements by each state.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will, health care directive, or advance directive is a legal document that describes the kind of health care you will receive and the medical care decisions your family should make in case of incapacitation or vegetative state. The directive stipulates palliative care and acceptance or rejection of life-sustaining medical procedures.
What Is a Living Will Form or Template?
A living will form or template is a predesigned fillable document with your end-of-life medical decisions, names, and legal provisions to execute your wishes. You only need to customize the will with your wishes and sign in the presence of two witnesses to make it valid.
Note: There are different templates to cater to each testator’s needs. Choose a template that captures your medical conditions and wishes, customize, sign and print multiple copies.
Living Will Forms & Templates
When to Use a Living Will Template?
Many individuals consider living wills a reserve for the elderly. However, if you have attained legal age, you can make a living will. Use a living will when you want to:
- Stipulate life-ending decisions.
- Approve or reject certain life-prolonging procedures.
- Undergo a life-threatening medical procedure such as open-heart surgery.
How to Make a Living Will
Whether you will draft a living will alone or use an online sourced template, you need to follow some steps to ensure your will is valid. The steps are:
Step 1) Make medical care decisions
Discuss your preferences for treating conditions that incapacitate you, such as coma, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or coma. Additionally, choose end-of-life decisions or palliative care options. You can proceed to choose a health care agent that will make decisions on the gray area of medical operations not detailed in your living will.
Step 2) Draft the will
Choose a template online or a legal paper and begin drafting your will. Alternatively, you can consult an attorney or health care proxy to help you draft the document. Include the medical care decisions and the date, among other will essentials.
Tip: Use an online template. Templates simplify the drafting process.
Step 3) Sign the Form
In the presence of two witnesses or the notary public, affix yours and the witness signatures on the living will. Initial each page and sign on the last page if your document is multipage.
Note: You are not obligated to register the will. However, share copies of the living will to influence immediate medical decisions in your favor.
Essential Elements of a Living Will
The following are must-haves of a living will:
Health care directives
The state’s healthcare directive and the medical power of attorney differentiate a living will from an advance directive with general preferences. However, do not include the section if you intend on using the medical power of attorney.
Life support considerations
The living will should spell out whether you wish to be put on life support machines or not if it detracts your quality of living. Amongst other considerations are resuscitation and the use of mechanical ventilation devices.
Life prolonging treatment
Whether you wish to ride out your illness or undergo life-sustaining medical procedures, you need to state in your will explicitly. However, you can opt for palliative care and forego life-prolonging treatment.
End-of-life wishes are preferential wishes such as a priest reading the final rites and removal from the life support machine in the advent of your death. Any special wishes, such as donating your organs to the hospital, are accounted for in the end-of-life section.
The medical power of attorney
A medical power of attorney designates a health care proxy to make decisions on your behalf. The section details all essential contact information and legal names.
Two witnesses should be present while you sign the form. The witnesses should: not be visually impaired, of legal age, and have no interest in the medical outcome. The witnesses will sign to acknowledge it is you who signed the will.
Some states require a notary. Ensure you comprehend the legal requirements for a valid living will.
Your signature proves the authenticity of the will. Affix a dated signature on the living will and initialize each page.
How to Write a Living Will
Follow the following steps to unequivocally state your wishes for end of life wishes and medical procedure decisions:
1. Enlist the documentation date and declarant details
Record the date you sign the living will and write your full legal name. The documentation date should be the most recent when you made the last changes to your living will.
2. Attach the health care directive
Use your state-provided advanced care directives with life support, coma, and inability to communicate your needs provisions. Also, have your attorney or health care agent include other provisions to cater to end-of-life decisions and life-sustaining procedures.
Try to be specific instead of general preferences. Precise medical directives will decide whether you live or die in case of life-threatening medical procedures.
3. Enlist any other wishes
Enlist any special rites and wishes before death. Also, attach medical power of attorney if you appoint a medical proxy.
Tip: Appoint a health care agent that will outlive you. Choosing a health care proxy ensures medical providers will duly execute your wishes.
4. Sign the form
Sign the document on the last page. Also, initial each page.
5. Notary acknowledgment and witness acknowledgment
Check what your state requires, whether it’s witnesses or a notary. Duly fill each section and affix the witnesses’ signatures.
Can I write my own living will?
Yes. You don’t necessarily need an attorney to draft a living will for you. As long as you are of sound mind, you can write one in the presence of a witness and sign it to make the will valid.
Does a living will have to be notarized?
It depends on the state you live in. Some states, such as Florida, do not require the will to be notarized. However, other states require a notary and two witnesses. Check with an attorney if your state has notary requirements.
How do you make a living will without a lawyer?
You need two witnesses, a notary, and a dated signature on your living will to make it valid. However, you may not be aware of the legal requirements of a living will, and in such cases, you will need an attorney.
Can the family override a living will?
No, your family cannot your directives unless you explicitly state they can. You retain the right to override or revoke the living will.
Can I write a will on any piece of paper?
Yes, your will is valid as you sign it in front of two disinterested witnesses. However, it is good practice to write it on legal paper. Legal paper is 50-100% cotton, measuring 8.5 x 14.0 inches.
What is the main problem with a living will?
The main problem with a living will is medical providers can’t find its existence in the immediacy of medical care decisions. It is important to share copies of the will with the hospital or your attorney before undergoing any medical operation with incapacitation or life-ending implications.
Does a will need to be signed on every page?
It is not mandatory to sign on every page; however, you need to initial each page and sign on the last page. Remember to include the witnesses’ initials too.
What states allow handwritten living wills?
States that allow holographic wills include California, Arkansas, Arizona, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Montana, Maine, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Alaska, Idaho, and Wyoming.
What makes a living will invalid?
Written witnesses who have not witnessed the testator signing the will or improper signing by the testators renders the will invalid. Also, if the witnesses are beneficiaries or under the legal age, the document is invalid.
Can relatives witness a will?
It is not wise to have a relative witness a will as witnesses need not be beneficiaries. Ask a work colleague to witness the will.
Who signs a will?
The testator and the witnesses sign the will. The testator also initials their name.
Can a daughter-in-law witness a will?
Yes, if the daughter-in-law is not a beneficiary of any outcomes, they can witness the will.
Can a stranger witness a will?
Yes. The requirements for a valid witness are that they are of sound mind, are of legal age (18), and have no direct interest in the will.
What if witness to will dies?
The will is valid as long as no one contests it. However, in case of legal dissensions, the executor will need to prove the witness signature was valid at the time of signing.
Can a will be notarized instead of being witnessed?
Some states allow notarization in lieu of a witnessed will. Colorado and North Dakota are such states.
Should a will be notarized or registered?
It is not mandatory to register the will. However, notarization requirements vary from state to state. The will is still valid despite not registering it.
What happens if a will is not executed?
When the will is not executed, the beneficiaries can contest the will, and the court may distribute the estate on intestacy provisions.
A living will designate how you will live out your last days in case of a terminal illness. Prepare in advance by drafting one yourself or having an attorney guide you.