The thought of not being able to make decisions on your own behalf can be frightening. If you’ve ever considered the possibility that illness or injury may leave you in a state of incapacity, then a Living Will is likely something you’ve investigated, and if it concerns you, then it’s definitely something that should become part of your Forward Plan.
A Living Will (sometimes referred to as an Advance Care Directive) is a document meant to communicate your wishes regarding care, treatment, and even housing if you are unable to do so, or if you no longer have the capacity to make reasonable decisions. It lets the attorney(s) for personal care know for how long, and in what circumstances, you wish to be kept alive. In Ontario, it is of persuasive value but not necessarily binding on the person to whom it is addressed.
It should be noted that a Living Will is not the same thing as power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document in which you grant an individual of your choosing rights to act on your behalf. In other words, a power of attorney document clearly defines the “who” within a legal document. A Living Will is not concerned with the question of “who,” only in outlining the preferences concerning treatment and care, and is not required to follow any specific legal formatting. A Living Will for example, is often used to outline the circumstances in which an individual may or may not wish to be kept alive by artificial means. A Living Will can be included as part of a power of attorney document. This combined document is sometimes referred to as a proxy directive.
What’s the Difference Between a Living Will and a Last Will & Testament?
Keep in mind that a last Will and testament is not the same as a Living Will. A Living Will, as the name implies, concerns itself with decisions made for your welfare prior to (rather than after) your death. In most cases, having a last Will and testament does not mean that your preferences for health care while still alive are documented. One similarity shared between the two Wills is that both should be periodically reviewed and revised when necessary. Opinions, feelings, and relationships will change over time, and those changes should be reflected in your living will just as they would be reflected in your will. Your Legal Sherpa® makes a point of reviewing and revising your Forward Plan documents regularly.
Your Legal Sherpa® from Yeti Law specializes in guiding you through the legal landscape, and in simplifying and personalizing the process. This is especially important when traversing such uncomfortable ground. No one particularly relishes the thought of living in an incapacitated state, or for that matter putting the responsibility onto loved ones of making life or death decisions. A Living Will removes the burden from loved ones, and is important to ensure that your wishes are respected even if you aren’t able to directly communicate them to your family or physician.
Legal Sherpa® Tip
Never make assumptions regarding those to whom you grant power of attorney. You should always check that the person you name as your Attorney to make Healthcare Decisions for you is willing and able to follow your wishes. Even your closest friend can have deeply held values that can clash with your own wishes.