While optional for your estate planning process, a living will can be vital, especially as you grow older. If you do not have a living will, your attending physician will turn to your family to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated or unable to make your own medical decisions. This can cause unnecessary stress for your loved ones, who may be unable to make an informed decision. It also does not guarantee the fulfillment of your medical treatment wishes.
Creating a living will can relieve the mental health burden on your closest family members by serving as an advance directive informing them and your doctors of your wishes should you become incapacitated. It can be an important guide for medical decisions and medical procedures that you do and do not want them to pursue. Contact our knowledgeable Virginia attorneys at Montagna Law for help with creating a living will tailored to your wishes and needs.
A living will is a legal document and advance medical directive that allows an individual to express their medical care needs should they become incapacitated and unable to make health care decisions. Under Virginia law, incapacitation occurs when a patient enters a persistent vegetative state or has a terminal condition that impairs their cognitive functions or communicative abilities to the point where they cannot state their desires.
A terminal condition is caused by illness, disease, or injury from which there is a medical probability that you will not recover. It can involve your death being imminent or your being in a persistent vegetative state. A persistent vegetative state is a condition caused by injury, illness, or disease that causes you to lose consciousness with no evidence of self-awareness of your surroundings outside of reflexes and autonomic body functions and from which there is no reasonable medical probability of recovery.
When you cannot communicate your desires regarding health care decisions, those close to you may be unable to make an informed decision about whether the doctors should perform life-prolonging procedures. As such, this document is an important guide for your loved ones and attending physician regarding the medical care you desire when you cannot tell them yourself.
A living will differs from a health care power of attorney, though the two things can complement one another. Someone with a medical power of attorney is a competent adult authorized to make decisions on your behalf, acting as your healthcare agent when you cannot communicate your desires. They can tell medical providers precisely what to do like you would if you were able.
On the other hand, a living will is a document that clearly outlines your desires. Your designated health care agent can use it to make an informed decision when the time comes. As the declarant of the living will, you may also name a designated successor agent in case the original agent becomes incapacitated. Remember that only one agent can serve at any given time.
Your living will is different from your last will. While both can be crucial estate planning documents, a last will discusses the disposition of your estate and possessions after you pass away. It is a guide for your beneficiaries to understand your wishes regarding who gets what and how your executor will manage your estate.
Any competent adult over 18 can create a living will in Virginia. This advanced medical directive will only come into play when you meet one of the two previously mentioned conditions for incapacitation. The declarant (you) must sign a living will in the presence of two witnesses who must not be blood relatives or your spouse. Living wills in Virginia are legal documents. When valid, they bind a healthcare facility or provider to their instructions.
No, a living will does not need to be notarized. However, it could help if the living will is ever challenged in court. Attorneys typically practice notarizing wills to avoid the necessity of calling a witness into court.
A living will in Virginia can be issued orally after an attending physician diagnoses a patient with a terminal condition. The patient must state their will in the presence of the attending physician and two unrelated witnesses.
A living will is a medical directive. It concerns how you wish to be cared for and what decisions will be made on your behalf. It can cover such medical directives as pain management, nutrition, hydration, life-prolonging procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, end-of-life decisions such as anatomical gifts and organ donations, and how to handle the dying process. It can specify any medical decisions you wish to be made if you are incapacitated and cannot make such decisions on your own.
The benefits of a living will include removing a heavy burden from your family. It spares them the mental stress of making important decisions, such as when to stop life-sustaining procedures if you have no reasonable medical likelihood of recovery. It can also help avoid family disputes about your medical care that could arise without a living will. It keeps these difficult decisions out of the hands of your loved ones and leaves them in your hands, even if you cannot communicate the decision at the moment.
Speaking with a qualified Virginia attorney is always a good idea when you need an advance health care directive. Many services offer a free Virginia living will that simply requires you, the declarant, to fill out a will form, sign it, and have witnesses sign it. This might seem like a clever way to save money, but it can be a gateway to potential unintended problems. It is easy to make errors that invalidate the will or open it up to challenges from those who wish to revoke it.
The right Virginia attorney can review your will form and help guide you through the estate planning process. Even if you already have a living will and simply need someone to review it, an attorney can help. They can work with you to help see that your living will is clear and allows your health care agent to make the right informed decisions on your behalf if the unthinkable happens. Virginia estate planning attorneys are well-versed in creating these documents and will not overlook essential decisions.
At Montagna Law, our Virginia estate planning attorneys can help you craft an advance directive or living will that precisely meets your needs and wishes. We have decades of experience as a caring ally for Virginia residents seeking to complete their estate planning process, from wills and trusts to living wills and medical powers of attorney.
If you are in the Hampton Roads region and need help creating, modifying, or clarifying your living will, we are ready to help. We can even assist if you want someone to review your preexisting living will. Contact us today at 757-622-8100 or use our online contact form to talk to a member of our legal team.