Living Will / Advanced Health Care Directive

If you have a living will, do you need an advanced directive?

Are a living will and advanced directive the same thing?

When it comes to legal jargon, terms and definitions can get confusing. Determining the differences between living wills and advance directives can be difficult for a few reasons. The biggest being that they’re so closely associated with one another – a living will is a type of advance directive.

With that knowledge, here are formal definitions for each legal order, their purposes, and how they differ.

What is a Living Will?

Unlike a will that you leave for your estate, a living will has a different purpose. Living wills are made while you’re alive and well, and states what your medical care wishes are if you happen to become incapacitated. After death, a living will is null and void - meaning it has no power.

A living will is a document you must not overlook while estate planning. This is the one document that will show medical professionals your preference in care and treatment should you ever become unable to do so yourself.

Without a living will, you risk your wishes being diminished and stressful family disputes over medical decisions.

What is an Advanced Healthcare Directive?

An advance directive is a set of instructions someone prepares in advance of ill health that determines his healthcare wishes. A living will is one type of advance directive that becomes effective when a person is terminally ill.

A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order and medical power of attorney are also types of advance directives. It’s important to remember that states regulate advance directives differently.

What is the purpose of an advanced healthcare directive?

The advance directive allows you to make specific written instructions for your future health care in the event of any situation in which you can no longer speak for yourself. It outlines your wishes about life-sustaining medical treatment if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious, for example.

Because no one can predict unexpected medical situations, advance directives are an important part of your health care plan. It helps your family, loved ones, and medical staff make important decisions during an emergency or crisis.

What is the difference between a living will and an advanced healthcare directive?

An advance directive is a set of instructions someone prepares in advance of ill health that determines their healthcare wishes. A living will is one type of advance directive that becomes effective when a person is terminally ill.

Because a living will is a type of advance directive, there are a few big differences between the two:

  • A living will can only address specific conditions mentioned in the document.
  • An advanced directive such as a medical power of attorney can make any, and all, medical decisions on your behalf.
  • If your living will is too vague, the doctor may ask for family members to make tough decisions.
  • An advanced directive such as an DNR order shows explicitly your wishes.
  • In some states, a power of attorney can override a living will.
  • Advanced directives are not limited like living wills. You can have a living will, power of attorney, DNR order, and more.

Both terms – advance directive and living will – are often used interchangeably. As you can see, both legal documents have significant differences. If you are considering drafting a living will or an advanced health care directive, get the help from a business attorney. Business attorneys specialize in this kind of thing and have done it all before.

Writing a will can be confusing at times and may be interpreted differently than what you have wanted. With the help of a business attorney these problems can be avoided.

If you would like to speak with a business attorney for more information about what a living will or advanced health care directive is or how to draft one, give us a call. We give a free consultation and will schedule appointments at your convenience.