The Legal Advantages & Disadvantages of a Living Will

The Legal Advantages & Disadvantages of a Living Will
••• in hospital image by Mykola Velychko from

Living wills let you state what kind of health care you do or don't want if you're ever in the position of suffering from a terminal disease or life threatening health issue that leaves you unable to make decisions. While living wills are often used by people planning for end of life situations, there are positive and negative aspects of these documents you should consider. An attorney in your area can give you legal advice about living wills in your state.


When you create a living will, you state in detail what you want to happen to you when you cannot make your own health care decisions. Your living will, as long as it complies with the legal requirements of your state, allows you to have a voice even when you are mentally incapacitated. These documents can give you peace of mind that your desires will be followed when you become ill or incapacitated.


You are allowed to be as specific as you want when you create a living will, detailing the exact nature of the kinds of care you want to receive and when. This not only allows you to effectively communicate your wishes to your doctors or health care providers, but also to your friends and family. When you are specific and clear about your wishes, it relieves your family of uncertainty and possible conflict.


People who make a living will often create a durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy, to go along with it. A health care proxy allows you to name another person as your representative for making health care decisions when you are unable to. Sometimes, the terms of your living will may conflict with the desires or decisions of the health care proxy. In these situations, conflicts between your proxy and family members or doctors may arise.


A living will addresses wishes pertaining to future events the particulars of which are unknown until they happen. This, of course, makes it nearly impossible for the creator of a living will to address every possible event or condition. Consequently, living wills that are not sufficiently comprehensive, or those that are not accompanied by a health care proxy or durable power of attorney, can lead to confusion and uncertainty.