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How does a living will work?

How does a living will work?


Many people in Chicago, Illinois, make a priority of setting their affairs in order by drafting a will. However, many people overlook the importance of creating a living will as well. A living will allows an individual to make his or her preferences regarding life-prolonging medical treatments known. If the individual ever becomes capacitated, his or her wishes as established in the will can be honored.

Requirements and provisions 

The terms of a living will can only be carried out if certain criteria are met, according to the Illinois Living Will Act. The primary physician must attest that an individual is either permanently unconscious or afflicted with a terminal condition. A living will cannot dictate treatment when an individual is incapacitated but capable of recovering. For instance, a heart attack victim with no other medical problems could be resuscitated regardless of what his or her living will orders.

Through a living will, an individual can provide orders on the application or withholding of various treatments that are considered “death delaying procedures.” These include:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Intravenous medication or feeding
  • Tube feeding

A living will can also address whether the individual will receive palliative care to relive pain in the absence of life-prolonging treatments.

Creating a living will 

Anyone over the age of 18 may create a living will. A standard form can be downloaded from the Illinois Department of Aging website. People with complex wishes or uncertainties can benefit from speaking with an attorney before completing the form. To be valid, the will must be signed in front of a witness or notarized. Anyone who drafts a living will should inform his or her physician of the document. Providing family members, physicians and care providers with copies is an easy way to ensure the living will is used when the time comes.

Individuals should understand that the terms of a living will might not apply in all cases of incapacitation. For instance, a health condition that is not life-threatening may temporarily incapacitate an individual without activating the living will. To address this kind of situation, individuals must create a Power of Attorney for healthcare. A Power of Attorney for healthcare is a legal document that gives a designated individual the right to make medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual. Anyone who has questions about drafting a living will or healthcare Power of Attorney should strongly consider speaking with an estate planning attorney for guidance.

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