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Making Sense Out of Dollars

The Living Will

Joel Lerner, Columnist
Posted 4/16/21

Part 3 of 4

How Do You Write a Living Will?

Get the appropriate form: While many states provide Living Will forms that you can use, you are not required to do so. If it does not fit within your …

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Making Sense Out of Dollars

The Living Will


Part 3 of 4

How Do You Write a Living Will?

Get the appropriate form: While many states provide Living Will forms that you can use, you are not required to do so. If it does not fit within your circumstances, you can draft your own Living Will. To complete your own Living Will document, you need to follow a certain formula, ensuring that it has all of the necessary information and is legally binding. Many sections need to be included in your Living Will, each covering a specific stipulation for your care.

Section 1 & 2 discusses the health care agent - this includes your name as the creator of the Living Will, as well as the full name, address and contact number of the person who you have appointed as your agent. In section 2, your alternate agent is named, should you decide on one.

Section 3 - Here you need to state the date from which your Living Will will be effective. Generally, statements such as “if” and when the writer cannot make health care decisions are used. In this case, a doctor will determine when this happens unless you state otherwise. It is also possible to state that you would like two doctors to make the determination of incapacity.

Section 4 of your Living Will you need to state what specific powers your agent will have. Preferably, they should be as broad as possible. In setting specific limits, your agent will not have the authority to make any decision to stop any type of health care. Nevertheless, in section 5 and 6, your agent must still follow your wishes and directions, regardless of how broad their power is.

Section 5 looks into the specific guidelines for how you want your medical treatment to be handled. Here, you may give general or specific instructions about your wishes for end of life care. Specific instructions about issues such as blood transfusions, electroconvulsive therapy, amputation, certain types of surgery and resuscitation should also be included. You may, for instance, instruct your agent to refuse any specific types of treatment that are against your religious beliefs, or are unacceptable to you for any other reason, such as a blood transfusion or life support.

Section 6 In the next section of your Living Will, you need to explain health care instructions that do not deal specifically with end-of-life matters, and that may arise while you are unable to help yourself. For example, you may want to include your wishes about medical treatments required to keep you alive.

Section 7 enables you to lay out any protection given to third parties who follow your agent’s decisions. In most US states, health care providers are not forced to follow the instructions of your agent if they object to them for any reason. However, most states require providers to transfer you to another provider who is willing to honor the Living Will. In this section, you should therefore include doctor compliance with the Living Will without the fear of being held liable civilly. In your Living Will, you could state that “no person who relies in good faith on any representations by my Agent shall be liable to me, my estate or my heirs for recognizing the Agents authority.” In doing so, the doctor might feel more comfortable following the wishes you have laid out in sections 5 and 6.

Section 8 enables you to specify if you want to donate your organs at the time of your death. If you are already an organ donor, you do not have to specify this unless you want to make sure your wishes are followed.

Sign your Living Will: Once your document has been completed, you must sign and date the document for it to go into effect. You should get it signed in the presence of a notary to prevent any future problems. Some states in the US require that you have the document witnessed, so be sure to check that your Will is legally sound.


Did you ever notice that when you put “THE” and “IRS” together it spells “THEIRS”?


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