Living Wills

medical imageFamily law attorneys generally encounter a few cases in which their client or the opposing party is very ill. This article will discuss the steps that can be taken and the legal documents used to assist these clients.
A Living Will is a type of advance directive, which is used to control decisions about life support. By signing a Living Will, you assert that you do not want to receive any form of life support if your doctor determines that you are terminally ill and your death is imminent. The Living Will gives your doctor permission to withhold or discontinue life support if this happens. Illinois provides a standardized Living Will form.
What is the difference between a Living Will and a Power of Attorney? Unlike a Power of Attorney, a Living Will does not appoint an agent to speak for you to ensure that your wishes, at the time of incapacitation, are followed. Also, a Living Will does not delve into any other health care decisions other than life support.
Do I need both a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney? It is usually a good idea for the following reasons. If the agent that you name as the Power of Attorney is not able or available to act on your behalf, then the Power of Attorney cannot be used to withhold or withdraw life support. However, if you have a Living Will, your doctor can follow your wishes, despite the unavailability of your Power of Attorney.
What if you change your mind? You are allowed to revoke your Living Will at any time, regardless of your mental or physical condition. This can be done by destroying the document or by other means, but it is best to sign a formal written revocation. A revocation is effective upon communication to the attending physician by the declarant or by another who witnessed the revocation.
Please reach out to an attorney if you have questions regarding a Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney. Additionally, you can access the current law for each at 755 ILCS 35/1 and 755 ILCS 45/4, respectively.

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