Living Wills and Advance Decisions

Your last will and testament ensures that your final wishes are carried out in the event of your death – but what about your wishes while you’re still alive, if you ever become terminally ill or unable to make your own decisions? 

One solution to this issue is a legal document known as a ‘living will’ or an ‘advance decision’.

Here at Wills.Services, we offer a range of services to help you protect yourself, your loved ones and your assets, including lasting power of attorneys (LPAs) and wills

 

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What is a living will and how does it work? 

A living will (now legally referred to as an ‘advance decision’ or ‘advance statement’ in the UK) is a legal document whereby you are able to outline instructions that must be followed if ever you lose the capacity to make or communicate your own informed decisions about having medical treatment.  

What is an advance decision? It is the legal term now used to refer to what was previously known as a ‘living will’ in the UK. 

With a legally- valid living will, you are able to refuse medical treatment, even if it could lead to your death. 

The advance decision or living will is only used under circumstances where you are unable to make your own decisions.  

If those circumstances arise and your living will is put into practice, the people caring for you must follow the instructions listed within the document. 

Things to consider when making a living will 

When you reach a certain age, it’s important to consider whether there are any medical treatments that you would not want to receive under specific circumstances, and how you would like to be cared for if ever you lose the ability to make your own choices. It isn’t a comfortable thought, but it is one that you should at least consider if you want to protect your future.  

It’s important that you discuss your advanced decision with a medical professional before making it legally- binding, so that you understand the risks of refusing certain treatments and get all the information you need to make an informed decision.  

Most people also choose to discuss the matter with their close family and friends to make them aware of their preferences. 

Of course, you also need to think carefully about how you should make your wishes known – whether you make your own living will, do so through a professional service, or opt for a different method, such as a lasting power of attorney.  

Read more: Talking to Your Family About Your Will 

Living will requirements 

If you want to use it to refuse treatment, your living will or advance decision must:  

  • Clearly state the circumstances under which you do not want to receive a specified list of treatments. 
  • Explicitly express whether you would not want to receive the treatment even if it could lead to your death. 
  • Not be used to ask for your life to be ended. 
  • Not be used to request a specific treatment. 

Example of a living will 

A living will or advance decision could include similar statements to the following:  

“If doctors state that my death from a terminal illness is imminent, I direct that my life not be extended by life-sustaining procedures, including the administration of nutrition and hydration artificially.” 

You could also include instructions stating that you want your life to be extended by life-sustaining procedures under certain circumstances (with those circumstances being listed).  

How to make a living will in the UK 

You can do the whole process yourself by using a free living will form or template, but unknown mistakes could lead to it being legally- invalid, meaning that your personal wishes will therefore be denied.  

Due to it being a legally- binding document, it must meet the relevant requirements and needs to be both ‘valid’ and ‘applicable’.  

There are a number of different legalities to contend with, including the phrase ‘living will’ itself, for example. In the UK, the term ‘living will’ is not legally recognised and you must refer to it as an ‘advance decision’. Without the help of a professional, you might make mistakes (such as using the wrong terminology) and your wishes could be ignored if ever the time comes for your living will be used. 

Remember, the safest and most reliable way to make sure that your personal wishes are followed is to write a will with a professional will writing service and set up a lasting power of attorney (LPA). to put plans in place regarding your care and finances, should you ever lose the mental capacity to make decisions yourself. 

Here at Wills.Services, we offer a range of useful services to help you organise your future, from LPAs to legally valid wills. Find out more in our related guides and register today to get started: 

 

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Can I put an advance decision in my last will and testament?

No, you cannot put your advance decision (statement) or living will into your last will and testament, as the document will not be initiated until you pass away (even if you are terminally ill, in a coma or unable to communicate your own decisions).  

Your last will and testament (often simply referred to as your will) does not come into effect until after you have passed away, so your living will – which is to be used while you are still alive, as the named suggests – must be separate. 

When you pass away, your living will or advance decision will be immediately cancelled.  

Why should I have a living will? 

At Wills.Services, we specialise in estate planning and believe that a living will or advance decision is an important part of your overall estate plan package. 

Your complete estate plan should include a:  

It may be unnatural to consider these documents, particularly while you still feel fit and healthy, but it’s important to get things in order for the future as we don’t know what’s around the corner. They must all be written while you are well and of sound mind, so it’s crucial that you set everything up before it’s too late. 

If you feel strongly about medical treatments for any reason, whether it’s a religious belief or simply just personal preference, we strongly recommend setting up an advance decision or living will as part of your estate plan. 

Our Will planning and Probate services at Wills.Services 

As mentioned, there are various documents that you should ideally set up to prepare for later life, including your last will and testament, lasting power of attorney, and living will or advance decision.  

With our professional help, you can rest assured that your documents will be legally- binding, accurate and clear. We will do all of the complicated paperwork for you and ensure that your wishes are expressed while adhering to all legalities.  

Complete our short contact form for more information on how we can help you, or sign up as a member to get started today. 

 

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