Putting decisions firmly in your own hands
Living Wills – sometimes referred to as advance decisions, advance directives, an advance statement or an advance decision to refuse treatment – allow individuals to document their wishes with regards to their health and care in case they become incapable of communicating that decision in the future. They are most commonly used to set out the conditions under which the person wishes to receive or refuse certain forms of medical care, such as life support or CPR.
If you’re looking to draft a Living Will, our solicitors offer the legal expertise needed to ensure your wishes are legally documented. Offering extensive experience in this area, Smith Partnership’s dedicated wills and inheritance team can help ensure your future medical treatment is put firmly in your own hands.
Although Living Wills may vary in complexity depending on a person’s specific requirements, a Living Will can be broadly defined as a written statement that details which actions are to be taken regarding a person’s health if illness or incapacity prevents them from specifying their wishes at a later stage.
They are important because they can be used to clearly communicate your wishes to healthcare professionals, family and other loved ones. Common examples of life-sustaining treatments you can choose to refuse include:
- Breathing support, which may be used if you are rendered unable to breathe by yourself
- CPR, which may be used if your heart stops
- Antibiotics, which may be administered to help your body fight infection
The examples listed above are not exhaustive, and advance decisions can be drawn up in as much detail as you’d prefer. If you’d like to find out more about what a Living Will might mean for you, feel free to get in touch with us today.
Living Wills should not be confused with wills, as the purposes of both documents are fundamentally different.
Living Wills are specifically used to set out decisions relating to healthcare whilst you are alive. On the other hand, wills clarify the way in which you wish your estate to be dealt with upon your death. As such, Living Wills and wills differ both in their purpose and in the moment they come into effect.
A valid advance decision requires you to have the mental capacity needed to make the decision. If your Living Will includes refusal of life-sustaining treatment, it can only be considered valid if it meets the following conditions:
- The decision has been documented in a written format
- The document has been signed by you
- The document has been signed by a witness
If you wish to refuse life-sustaining treatments in circumstances where you might die as a result, your wishes need to be clearly stated in your Living Will. For it to be legally binding, it should also:
- Comply with the Mental Capacity Act
- Be valid
- Apply to the situation
A valid and legally binding advance decision takes precedence over decisions made in your best interest by other people, ensuring you are in control of the way you are medically treated.
Living Wills can be legally complex, and calling on the right legal expert can make all the difference in ensuring the document meets your specific needs.
A Living Will may not be effective if it does not clearly set out your requirements, meaning that your decision may still be overturned. Furthermore, our will solicitors are also able to offer legal advice on potential alternatives that may better serve your interests, such as a Lasting Power of Attorney.
You have the final say on who sees your Living Will, but it is important to make sure family members, carers and healthcare professionals are aware of it and know where to find it, for example by keeping a copy in your medical records.
In the case that you require emergency treatment, those who are familiar with your Living Will can then make sure your wishes are clearly communicated to those who are treating you.
Smith Partnership is one of the leading law firms in the East Midlands, offering straight-talking and jargon-free legal advice across our offices in Derby, Leicester, Burton upon Trent, Swadlincote and Stoke-on-Trent. We also advise clients on a remote basis, offering legal guidance on Living Wills UK-wide.
With decades’ worth of experience behind us, we’re proud to offer a dedicated wills and inheritance team that aims to make exceptional legal advice accessible to everyone.