You may be surprised to learn that a living will, also known as an advance healthcare directive in California, is not really a will at all. A living will is a legal document that is meant to communicate your wishes in certain medical situations where you may not be able to communicate yourself.
If you slip into a coma after a car accident, for example, and you cannot tell anyone that you would like to remain on life support, a living will allows doctors to understand your preferences while you are incapacitated.
What can you include in a living will?
Many people mistakenly believe that a living will is only useful in cases where you would like to deny medical treatment. While people certainly do use living wills in this manner, you may also specify which medical treatments you would like to receive, or that you would like to receive all treatments available.
When is a living will effective?
According to FindLaw, a living will only becomes effective if a doctor determines that you are unable to communicate your treatment preferences because you are either terminally ill or in a permanent vegetative state. Additionally, living wills are not valid in California if you are pregnant at the time because the doctor will prioritize the life of your baby.
While it may be difficult to think about what you want to happen if you are ever in a situation where you cannot make medical decisions for yourself, it is an important part of ensuring that others respect your wishes. Additionally, it may help prevent bickering amongst family members who all want different things.