What is a Living Will?

Most people know that a Will, or Last Will & Testament, is a document that contains the last wishes of a person so that when they pass away their requests can be honored.

Most people have heard of a living will but not that many know exactly what a living will is.

What is a living will?

In Connecticut, a Living Will – also called Advance Directive – is a legal document that expresses the author’s medical treatment wishes ahead of time. A Living Will is one of the documents everyone should have. It might even be more important than a Will to most people because it impacts the “author” when he or she is still alive.

A Living Will indicates to others your preferences for when you would like to refuse or accept medical treatment in the future. You put these wishes in writing (such as whether you would like to remain on life support, whether you would like to be resuscitated, whether you would prefer to live in pain longer or have an easier exit from this world). If the proper form is used in compliance with Connecticut law, these written wishes have legal effect.

How Is a Living Will Similar to a Will?

  1. A Living Will allows you to speak for yourself ahead of time to ensure that others don’t make decisions on your behalf that should be yours to make.
  2. A Living Will can help avoid conflicts among your family with fights over “what dad would have wanted” because you’ve told them. A Living Will keeps your family from fighting over whether or not you want to be on a feeding tube, be kept alive when you are braindead, and whether or not you want your life to be prolonged if you are terminally ill.

How Is a Living Will Different from a Will?

  1. A Living Will does not dispose of property.
  2. A Living Will is in effect while you are alive, while a Will covers matters once you pass away.

Why would I need a Living Will? Can’t I just tell my doctor my wishes?

Yes, but only if you are conscious and the doctor, your family, and everyone’s lawyers agree that you have the mental capacity to make decisions on your own.

The older you get, the more likely someone who strongly disagrees with your expressed wishes will challenge your legal right to make them. If you’ve executed a living will while your mental facilities were unimpeachable, there is very little that anyone can do to challenge your decision.

If someone did challenge your decision, you have a backup. You could appoint a Healthcare Power of Attorney to speak for you. Read more about that here.