What Is a Living Will and Why Do I Need One?

In life, we prepare for everything: marriage, births, college, and retirement. But we rarely plan for unexpected accidents and sudden illnesses that may require complex healthcare decisions. 

If the unthinkable were to happen, do your loved ones and physicians know what medical interventions and treatments you would want if something happened, and you were unable to tell them?

Maybe you’ve heard of living wills but aren’t sure of the details. What is a living will? It’s something that will help you provide what your loved ones would want, bringing answers and peace of mind to the whole family. 

A living will, also known as an advance directive for end-of life care, is so important. A Living Will along with a Healthcare Power of Attorney constitutes an advance care plan (ACP). 

Unfortunately, only about one in three adults have documented their medical wishes.

What is a Living Will/Advance Care Plan?

A Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney give you a voice in your healthcare even if you are unable to communicate your wishes. It is important to note that a LEGAL Power of Attorney (POA) does not extend to healthcare wishes, it only covers financial ones.

  • What Is a Living Will? –This identifies what medical interventions you wish in case of a serious illness or injury when you are no longer able to make your own healthcare decisions. Completion of the form does not require a lawyer but may require a notary. It can always be updated as your medical wishes change,
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney – This is a document that names someone who will speak for you and make medical decisions based on your wishes when you are no longer able to communicate your healthcare decisions if you become seriously ill or injured. Completion of the form does not require a lawyer but may require a notary.  It can be updated should you want to change who speaks for you or they are no longer able.
  • Power of Attorney – This is a legal document that allows someone to act on your behalf as a legal representative for financial purposes. A lawyer is required to designate a POA representative.

Why Is Advance Care Planning Important?

An advance care plan helps ensure your wishes are honored when you are unable to communicate for yourself. It relieves loved ones, who may not know your wishes, from guessing about what you may want, which adds even more stress and possible conflict during an already extremely stressful time. It lifts the burden of guilt by knowing exactly what you want done and not done,

What is a living will? It’s something that is vitally important, but sadly, many don’t recognize its value. For example:

  • Although nearly 80% of people say they would prefer to die at home, almost 75% of people don’t die at home. 
  • People without an advance care plan are physically moved from one setting to another an average of three times in the last few weeks of life. 
  • While about 80% of people say they don’t want their life extended by machines, the use of mechanical ventilation in the 90 days prior to death has increased in the last 15 years. 
  • Having a living will is associated with a decreased likelihood of dying in a hospital.

Advance care planning is important for anyone who:

  • Has specific or unique healthcare preferences
  • Wants to give peace of mind to family members
  • Likes to have a say in his or her healthcare decisions
  • Wants to live well, even through his or her own death
  • Is living with serious, advanced illness
  • Is living with chronic illness, either potential or realized

How Do You Get an Advanced Healthcare Plan in Place?

What is a living will and where can you find the documentation? Fortunately, this is a simple process. A basic online search will point you in the direction of the proper forms. These forms will include instructions and will advise if a notary is needed and who qualifies as witnesses to the documents.

Important Living Will Information for NC Residents

Copies of the proper forms for North Carolina, in both English and Spanish can be downloaded from our Begin the Conversation website.

Check our calendar and social media posts for regularly scheduled and other free workshops available to the public. This is a great option if you want to ask specific questions about the forms or get more in-depth information than just downloading them and filling them out yourself.

Living Will Information for SC Residents

Copies of the proper forms for South Carolina, in both English and Spanish can be downloaded from our Begin the Conversation website.

Begin the Conversation: The First Step Toward Advance Care Planning

Call 800.733.1476 to request a free Begin the Conversation Advance Care Planning workshop for your group, church, club or organization.

Begin the Conversation: North Carolina Counties

 This workshop is available in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, Pender, Onslow and Robeson counties.  We’re happy to provide a free workshop for your group, including necessary forms and copies of our workbook.

Begin the Conversation Workshop: South Carolina

This workshop is available to those in Horry County.

Talk with your doctor about your wishes and document them on a MOST/POLST form. MOST stands for Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment. POLST stands for Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment.

Get Your Free Begin the Conversation Workbook

Download a free copy of our Begin the Conversation 3-Step Workbook for End-of-Life and Healthcare Planning with tips to help you plan your conversation with loved ones and document other information that may be needed if you are injured or seriously ill and unable to speak: 

Download in English

Download in Spanish

Now That I Have My Plan, How Do I Ensure It’s Followed?

Make copies of your Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney and make sure that a family member/friend and/or designated health care proxy knows where they are or provide them with copies.

Discuss with your Healthcare Power of Attorney what your wishes for medical interventions might be for different scenarios.

Discuss your wishes with your doctor and provide him/her with a copy of your advance care plan.

Check to see if your state has an advance directive registry and enter your advance directive on the site.

We Provide the Guidance You Need at Lower Cape Fear Life Care

We’ve examined ‘what is a living will?’ and have provided detailed information on why it is so important to you and those you love. But perhaps you still have questions. We’ll be happy to listen to you and provide the extensive resources and support you need. 

Remember, it’s better to plan 10 years too early than 10 minutes too late.

Find out more about our organization, service areas, and why our hospice meets or exceeds all categories in a national caregivers survey. Contact us today.