A Living Will, also known as an advance decision, is designed to be used during your lifetime and sets out your wishes in respect of your care and medical treatment.
By making a Living Will, you can put in writing details of what is important to you and how you would like to be treated in the event that you are unable to make or communicate your wishes at a future date.
What you can include in a Living Will
As well as medical considerations, you can record your preferences in respect of where you would like to be cared for, personal preferences for your day to day life, such as diet and religious beliefs, and who is to be consulted about your care. You should ideally also discuss this with your family and those included in your Living Will.
You cannot include any instructions about what should happen to your estate after you die; this needs to go in a separate Last Will and Testament.
What to consider in respect of medical treatment
It is possible to refuse certain treatments, such as life support and antibiotics for life-threatening infections, but you cannot refuse basic care or food and water. Similarly, you can’t nominate someone to make decisions on your behalf.
If you have a specific condition, you should discuss the possible terms of any Living Will with your medical practitioners.
A Living Will can be made at any time, to help loved ones make difficult decisions in the future, and it is not necessary to wait until you are facing illness or incapacity.
Is a Living Will legally enforceable?
If your Living Will is within the bounds of what is legal and is valid and unambiguous, it will be legally binding on medical professionals.
Health and welfare lasting power of attorney
A health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a document appointing someone to act on your behalf in respect of similar matters. If an LPA is signed after a Living Will is made, it may invalidate the Living Will if it gives the attorney the power to make the same decisions covered in the Living Will.
It is possible to write a health and welfare LPA that doesn’t invalidate a Living Will, however this would need to be carefully drafted.
A Living Will made after a health and welfare LPA would take precendence to the LPA in respect of life-saving treatments.
By putting a Living Will in place while you are able to make important decisions for yourself can be helpful and of comfort to your loved ones in the future.
If you would like to talk to one of our legal experts about making a Living Will or LPA, ring us on 0117 952 0698 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.