Many people in Georgia and elsewhere use a variety of estate planning instruments to protect their assets and specify their wishes regarding what will happen to them and their property upon their passing. One instrument commonly used in a comprehensive estate plan is a living will. Formally called a health care directive, a living will specifies the wishes of the individual with regard to any potential life-saving, life-extending or health care-related treatments should the he or she become incapacitated or otherwise not able communicate those wishes verbally.
What does a living will cover?
Like a traditional last will and testament, a living will must be created by an adult who still has testamentary capacity to make such decisions, and the testator must sign the document in the presence of at least two adult witnesses. Other items covered in a living will include:
- Specifying life-prolonging treatments — A testator can specify in a living will whether he or she would want to receive treatment, procedures or intervention that would help prolong life. If a person winds up in a coma or otherwise totally incapacitated with no reasonable expectation of recovery, a living will can provide for the testator’s consent to or refusal of such treatment.
- State-to-state validity — The living will’s terms shall be honored in other states outside the declarant’s home state.
- Physician-related matters — If a physician is following the terms of the living will in good faith and acting in accordance with declarations therein, the physician shall be immune from civil liability or unprofessional conduct. Similarly, physicians who are unwilling to follow the terms of the living will immediately notify the testator’s next of kin and work in good faith to help obtain the services of another physician who will comply with the terms.
The importance of having a living will as part of one’s comprehensive estate plan cannot be overstated. No one knows what the future holds, and a living will gives an individual the chance to make important decisions and declarations at a time when he or she still possesses the capacity to specify those wishes. Those interested in learning more about living wills and how to create one should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney in Georgia for assistance.