A living will is often regarded as an essential part of a complete estate plan. In Massachusetts, these documents do not have the same legal effect as they do in other jurisdictions. However, they can still prove valuable as tool to ensure that your wishes are honored if you become incapacitated and cannot explain your preferences to medical professionals.
For that reason, the team at Jordan & White is ready to prepare a living will designed to your specific needs and goals. We will also explain the effect that the document can have in different circumstances in your future.
Terms in a Living Will
A living will is nothing like a traditional will. While a traditional will specifies how your property should be distributed after your death, a living will deals with decision making while you are alive, and it only involves decisions about your medical care.
To be more precise, a living will describes the type of medical treatment you would want to receive in particular circumstances. For instance, you might state that if you have been diagnosed with a terminal condition and death is imminent that you would not want to receive nutrition through a feeding tube to prolong your life. You can choose to receive some forms of treatment but not others. Or you could specify that you would want certain measures performed in some circumstances but not others.
How a Living Will Functions in Massachusetts
Unlike most states, Massachusetts does not recognize the terms of a living will as legally binding on health care professionals. Your family will not be able to force your doctor to act based on the terms of your living will.
However, what a living will can do is provide guidance to your loved ones about the choices you would make in various situations. When you designate a family member or friend to serve as your health care agent, your living will helps them make the right decisions on your behalf. If they know you would not want certain types of life support in a particular situation, they can follow your wishes without agonizing over the decision.
You Should Also Have a Health Care Proxy
Because living wills are not enforceable as standalone documents in Massachusetts, you should also have a valid health care proxy document as part of your estate plan. This document is sometimes called a medical power of attorney. In a health care proxy you designate someone to serve as your agent and make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated and unable to make or communicate your own decisions. Your health care agent can look to the terms of your living will as guidance as they make treatment decisions for you.
Jordan & White Prepares Comprehensive Estate Plans to Protect Your Interests Now and in the Future
Many people think that estate planning only involves financial matters, but a thorough estate plan protects your medical needs as well as financial interests. To incorporate a living will, health care proxy, or other medical documents into your estate plan, contact the team at Jordan & White. We can create new documents or review existing documents to ensure that you are fully protected.