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Why a Living Will is Important

Do I need a living will?

A living will is a legal document that lays out your preferences for life-sustaining medical treatment.  It is often accompanied by a health-care proxy or power of attorney, which allows someone to make healthcare decisions for you when you are incapacitated, and the living will does not have specific instructions for the situation at hand.

Living Will vs. Advance Directive: What’s the Difference?

“Living will” and “advance directive” are often used synonymously, but a living will legally only applies after a terminal diagnosis, whereas an advance directive is much more comprehensive and includes the healthcare proxy.

As of 2017, only around one in three American adults had an advance directive for end-of-life care prepared. Those who are 65 and older are more likely to have an advance directive prepared than those who are younger. Likewise, those who have a chronic illness are more likely to have an advance directive prepared than those who are not. People may be unwilling to prepare these documents because they fear that they won’t necessarily reflect their wishes at the time they become relevant; sometimes patients become more willing to undergo treatments they rejected when they were younger as they age and develop medical problems. However, the documents can be changed as long as the principal has capacity to amend the document.

Why You Need a Living Will

So, why is a living will important? The living will is important because it reduces ambiguity which can prevent family disputes during what is already a difficult time. It may seem like something that can be put off, but life is unpredictable; one never knows when these documents could become relevant. A living will is a straightforward document, however it’s important to work with legal counsel to make sure your desires are properly stated.

Other healthcare documents, such as a healthcare power of attorney and a HIPAA Authorization, should also be prepared in conjunction with the living will. The healthcare power of attorney designates a person to make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to make informed medical decisions. The HIPAA Authorization is the document that permits your agent named under the living will and healthcare power of attorney to have access to your protected medical information.

Finally, once you have created your living will, healthcare power of attorney and HIPAA Authorization make sure you keep them updated, especially if you change states, and be diligent in communicating with whomever you named to act on your behalf.

Experienced Estate Planning Attorney, Andre O. McDonald, is here to help.

If you need a living will or health care power of attorney or already have one that you would like reviewed, give Andre O. McDonald, a knowledgeable Howard County, Montgomery County and District of Columbia estate planning, special-needs planning, veterans pension planning and Medicaid planning attorney a call at, (443) 741-1088 (Columbia office) or (301) 941-7809 (Bethesda office) to schedule a consultation so we can discuss your particular needs.


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For help with estate planning, special needs planning, elder law or Veteran's Pension Planning needs throughout Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore County; and Baltimore City, contact McDonald Law Firm, LLC.

McDonald Law Firm, LLC

Columbia Office

10500 Little Patuxent Pkwy, #420
Columbia, MD 21044-3563

Bethesda Office:

(By Appointment Only)

7315 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 800 West
Bethesda, MD 20814

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