What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is a legal document that advises your loved ones and medical professionals of your health and social care wishes. It would be used should you lose the capacity to make decisions or communicate them. A Living Will is comprised of an Advance Statement and/or Advance Decision.
An Advance Statement states the care you want, while an Advance Decision states the treatments you don’t want.
You can have a Living Will and a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health and Welfare simultaneously, but an LPA gives you more protection.
Contact us today to discuss setting up an LPA.
Why make a Living Will?
A Living Will can ensure you are treated in a manner that suits you. You and your family will have peace of mind knowing that your wishes are clear. Medical and social care professionals will also respect your wishes while administering treatment.
A Living Will can’t be used to:
Demand inappropriate care
Refuse food, drink or basic nursing to keep you comfortable
Whether you have been diagnosed with a serious illness like dementia or not, a Living Will can protect you in the future, as long as you have mental capacity now.
What is an Advance Decision?
An Advance Decision declares the treatments you don’t want to receive, including CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and more. If this includes life-saving procedures, you must:
- State when you wouldn’t want them
- Make sure your document complies with the Mental Capacity Act
- Put your decision in writing, signed and witnessed, and include the statement ‘even if life is at risk as a result’
Once signed, it overrides decisions made by others on your behalf.
There is no national register of Living Wills, so it is essential everyone involved in your care knows you have made an Advance Decision. You could ask your GP to store a copy with your medical records or wear medical jewellery to keep it accessible.
As long as you meet the requirements — including being at least 18 years old and having capacity — then your Advance Decision is a legally binding refusal of treatment.
What is an Advance Statement?
An Advance Statement records your wishes and beliefs regarding your future health or social care. It is not legally binding, but should be considered by anyone close to you. You could include information about:
- Where you would like to be cared for
- Daily routine and personal care
- Your beliefs and values
- Who you want to be consulted about your care and visit you
Anyone can make an Advance Statement; you don’t need to have a diagnosed condition or be nearing the end of life. You can make a verbal statement, but a written statement is better.
When should I update my Living Will?
Regular reviews of your Living Will ensure it remains valid and continues to reflect your wishes.
You should review your Advance Decision if:
- You experience a change in health, or have to receive serious treatment or surgery
- You have a change in personal circumstances, like pregnancy or moving house
- You haven’t reviewed your Advance Decision in two years or more
- You have an old Living Will or an Advance Decision made before 2007
- You make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare
- You change your mind
What is the difference between a Living Will and an LPA for Health and Welfare?
It is important to consider what you want to cover before deciding whether you need a Living Will and/or an LPA.
A Health and Welfare LPA allows you to appoint attorneys to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make them yourself. This includes decisions about your medical treatment, social care and day-to-day routine.
A Living Will does not let you choose someone to make such decisions for you. An Advance Decision states the treatments you want to refuse and under what circumstances. An Advance Statement is a record of your wishes for health and social care. So, a disadvantage of a Living Will is that – because you don’t know what will happen to you in the future and or how you will feel about your circumstances – it may not always be in line with your wishes. A Health and Welfare LPA is more flexible for unforeseen future events, as your attorneys can ensure your wishes are upheld.
You can also add a letter of requests for your attorneys to your LPA. This can state medical and care preferences, as well as consent and refusal to life-sustaining treatments. Your attorneys can then be sure what you would choose if you had capacity, when they are making decisions for you.
What happens if I have both?
If you have both a Living Will and a Health and Welfare LPA, you must make sure there is no conflict between the wishes stated. This could cause confusion for your loved ones, attorneys, medical professionals and solicitors.
The one made most recently takes priority when decisions need to be made. So, an LPA could override a Living Will if you gave your attorneys the power to decide on life-sustaining treatment, for example. And, if the Living Will was made later, it could prevent your attorneys from overriding it.
Want to find out more about Living Wills?
If you have further questions about Living Wills, visit Compassion in Dying’s website.
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