Who Can Legally Draft a Living Will?
A Paralegal Can Draft a Living Will
Many people wrongly believe they must spend thousands of dollars on an Estate Attorney to draft a Living Will or Healthcare Directive. This couldn't be farther from the truth. A Paralegal is more than qualified to draft a will or other estate planning documents.
These are realities no one likes to truly think about, and hardly come up in casual conversation. When someone becomes terminally ill, the medical team looks to a Living WiIl (Healthcare Directive) to fulfill wishes made by the patient. This is just as important as having a Trust or Estate Will regarding the estate. An example to a messy probate battle is the case of famous singer Prince. He passed away tragically and unexpectedly at a young age. Not having a Living Will, Trust or Estate Will when a person has millions at stake, is a formula for disaster. This left his family with years of headaches in Probate Court and high-priced attorney fees.
Each state has specific laws and guidelines regarding what a Living Will must include. A Living Will is important and its contents are perhaps the hardest end-of-life decisions one must make. Take advantage of still being healthy and decide now what types of care you want. Do not wait until you are unable to make those decisions later. It is one of the only direct ways to tell medical providers your wishes, especially if you become unable to speak for yourself.
Having healthcare instructions drafted by a legal professional is highly recommended. You DO NOT need a lawyer to assist you, but you may want to consult with one. An experienced Paralegal can draft most Estate Law documents, including a Living Will. Contracting with a Paralegal not only saves you money, but will most likely provide a more casual one-on-one service. Most attorneys are very busy and typically straight forward when conducting business. However, remember that a Paralegal cannot provide legal advice. Be careful of using online legal document form websites. Most of those websites are not monitored by estate lawyers or paralegals, and are physically located outside of the United States. A Living Will drafted correctly, regardless of the state you reside in, will include the following:
- Health Care Representative or Power of Attorney (POA)
- Medical Treatment
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Option
- Blood Transfusion
- Organ Donation
- Religious Option
A Living Will must state what medical treatment requested once terminally ill or unconscious. The legal term of 'Terminally Ill' is when your ‘medical problem can’t be cured or reversed’, and without treatment, your doctor expects you to die. A 'Permanent Coma' means 'at least two doctors say you are unconscious and are not expected to wake up’.
Living Wills allow you to decide the following:
- CPR if you stop breathing,
- Food or water through a tube,
- A ventilator to breath, or
- Other treatment per orders of a doctor to keep you alive.
You will always receive pain medication and comfort care (unless you state otherwise).
Estate Planning Relieves Stress On Family
Power of Attorney
The Power of Attorney is the person you choose to make healthcare decisions for you when you cannot speak for yourself. Choose someone you trust, knows your wishes, and is willing to follow them. That person should also be able to communicate your wishes to your doctor and medical team. Consider naming a second person as an Alternate Power of Attorney in the event the first person isn’t readily available.
After signing the Living Will, your Power of Attorney can ensure your end-of-life decisions are followed. If you do not sign the Will, your desires may not be communicated to your physician. Having all legal documents notarized is highly advised to reduce the any confusion if the Probate Court gets involved.
Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNR)
A DNR is an order written by your doctor—in consultation with you or your family—about withholding certain medical treatment. This would include not administering CPR or oxygen in the event you stop breathing.
Living Will Instructions
To make your healthcare instructions legal, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old,
- Be able to understand the impact of your health care decisions, and
- Sign and date your medical instructions in front of two witnesses (notarize if available).
*The Power of Attorney cannot be a witness.
Give copies of your signed Living Will to:
- Power of Attorney
- Doctor offices you see regularly (primary physician/surgeon)