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If you are considering having your estate plan completed, one document that you may have questions about is a living will.  Many people believe all they need for a complete estate plan is a living will.  However, a Will and a Living Will are two completely different documents that serve different purposes.  What exactly is a living will and what purpose does it serve?

A living will is a document that outlines your wishes for your medical treatment should you become unable to express decisions for your medical care.  For example, if you are tramatically injured and are unable to communicate, a Living Will tells your health care professionals whether you want death-delaying procedures used if you have a terminal condition.

Not only is it important for you to have a Living Will, but the document is useless if it is not completed correctly.  The Living Will must be signed properly based on current Illinois legal requirements.

Some questions you should be ready to answer when filling out a Living Will:
How important is your quality of life?
How important is it to you to avoid pain and suffering?
Would you rather be home or in a hospital for the last days of your life?

Another important aspect of the Living Will is the importance of your healthcare agent knowing where the document is located in the event he or she needs to produce it.  Your healthcare professional providing treatment to you at the end of your life cannot comply with the Living Will directive if he or she doesn’t have the document.  It only benefits you and your family during the most difficult times for your healthcare agent to have access to your Living Will.  If your healthcare agent can not produce the Living Will, you may as well not have one.   In that case, the healthcare professionals treating you at the end of your life will have to follow the common law regarding your treatments and that may not align with your wishes.

In Illinois we also use a document called Power of Attorney for Healthcare.  Do not get this confused with a Living Will.  The Power of Attorney for Healthcare is to name the person who will be responsible for making all your healthcare decisions should you be unable to communicate.  In this document, you have the ability to name one, or multiple, “health care agents” who will have the power to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to or do not want an make them yourself.

The different components of a comprehensive estate plan can be confusing.  If you have any questions regarding a Living Will or any of the other documents mentioned, please contact us.