A living will is a basic estate planning document that explains the medical treatment you do and do not want to receive if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. An accident or illness that leaves you incapacitated can happen at any time, so it is one of the most important documents to include in your estate plan.
However, merely creating a living will is not enough. The people you grant responsibility for your medical care need to be able to access and refer to it. Therefore, there are steps you need to take after creating your living will.
1. Make copies
You should make multiple copies of your living will. This allows you to share them with your doctor and anyone else who may end up in a decision-making position over your end-of-life care. If you have a designated health care agent or proxy, he or she should receive a copy of your living will, as should close family members.
2. Retain the original
It may be necessary for your doctor, family or health care agent to refer to the original living will document. Therefore, you should keep it in a safe place, but one that is accessible if necessary. You should also inform your agent or family members of where you keep the original.
3. Keep records
You should always know who has a copy of your living will. Keep written records of this.
You should also have a way to inform strangers that you have a living will in case of an accident or sudden illness. A card in your wallet describing where to find your advance directive and identifying your health care agent is a good idea. When traveling, you should take a copy with you.
Legally, no one can override the wishes you express in your living will. However, you should also discuss your wishes with your family members beforehand. That way, they know what to expect and have a chance to resign themselves to your wishes.