Wills and Trusts:

Understanding Living Wills

A living will is a legal document declaring your wish to die a natural death. It informs your doctors that, if incurably ill, you do not wish to have your life prolonged by artificial or extraordinary means (such as respirators, feeding tubes, or other devices). This means that a living will is a form of communication with your doctor which states clearly in advance how you want to be treated when and if you become terminally and irreversibly ill.

The living will only becomes operative if two physicians, including your attending physician, have determined that death will occur within a relatively short period of time, and you are unconscious or otherwise unable to express your wishes for further treatment.

In order to prepare a living will you must fill out the form and sign in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom must be a Notary Public. It is recommended that you discuss your decision with close family members or friends, as well as with your doctor. Read the form carefully, including the section on who can be witnesses.

A copy of the living will should be given to your physician. One or more members of your family (or close friends) should know that you have a living will and either should have a copy or know where to find a copy. Unlike regular wills, there is no official governmental recording of a living will.

If you wish to, you can revoke your living will simply by tearing it up or just informing your doctor by word of mouth or in writing. You also have the option of designating a person, on the Declaration, who may revoke the Will on your behalf.