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Preparing for the Unknown with a Living Will

April 2, 2020
By Alyson G. Bryant, Esq.

During these unprecedented times of heightened health risk and uncertainty, it is especially important to have your healthcare advance directives in place. A healthcare advance directive gives authority and direction to persons you trust to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. One of those directives is called a Living Will. A Living Will is a document that shares your specific healthcare directives and medical wishes regarding life-prolonging procedures to healthcare providers and caregivers should you become incapacitated or unable to communicate.

Although similarly named, a Living Will has nothing to do with a Last Will and Testament. Any competent adult may make a Living Will or written declaration and direct the providing, prolonging, withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging procedures in the event that such person has a terminal condition, end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state. A Living Will can address your wishes on specific matters such as hydration, feeding, pain relief, antibiotics, use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and ventilators.

It is your responsibility to provide your healthcare providers with your Living Will so your physician or healthcare facility can include your Living Will in your medical records. If you’re physically or mentally incapacitated at the time you’re admitted to a health facility, any other person may notify the physician or healthcare facility of the existence of the Living Will. You should provide your primary care physician and your healthcare surrogate with a copy of your Living Will in case it is ever needed.

A Living Will must be signed by you in the presence of two subscribing witnesses, one of whom is neither a spouse nor a blood relative. If you are unable to physically sign the Living Will, one of your witnesses must subscribe your signature in your presence and at your direction. The attached form is consistent with the Florida statutory suggested form. It also includes a provision for notarization because some health care providers (notably the Mayo Clinic) will not accept a Living Will which was not acknowledged by a Notary.

If you would like further specialized assistance with your Living Will or other estate planning documents, please call our office to schedule an initial consultation. We are encouraging clients to meet with us remotely at this time, via teleconference or video chat on Zoom.