The Operation of a Living Will

In many states, a Living Will becomes effective when it is signed, and witnessed by two witnesses. Frequently, the signature of the maker must also be notarized.

Check your state law:

  • To determine what requirements are necessary to make your Living Will valid
  • There may be a difference in the legal requirements of validity in your state between a Living Will and a will
  • Note some states prohibit doctors and/or healthcare employees from acting as witnesses on the theory that a conflict situation may arise during the medical treatment decisions and these persons may be subject to attacks that they are not objective
  • Consider witnesses who might benefit from your estate or your personal affairs

Your Living Will comes into effect when you cannot make decisions for yourself. This time period will vary among individuals and in most cases, state law provides a guide as to when the Living Will can be put into operation.

Generally, many states require that two physicians certify that you are unable to make decisions and that you are suffering from the medical condition specified by state law. Some state laws specifies that each person be suffering from a condition such as "terminal illness.”

Once your Living Will is prepared, be sure to understand that different states may regard the document you prepared in a different manner. Some states will determine that your Living Will prepared in another state is valid, while others will not.

You may need to write your document to comply with laws in different states if:

  • you know you may spend a significant amount of time in one or two states
  • you reside in different states
  • or if you expect to receive medical care in a different state

Store your Living Will in a place of safe-keeping, but not in a safe deposit box because the persons who need access to your documents may not have access to your safe-deposit box. Once access is gained, it may be too late to effectuate your wishes.

To make sure that your living will is valid, consult an attorney by contacting member services.

Posted in: Elder Care