A living will is integral to any comprehensive estate plan in Indiana. You never know when an accident or illness or another cause will affect your health to the point you can no longer make decisions about your medical treatment. A living will ensures these decisions are made in advance and also allows you to designate a trusted person to make these same kinds of decisions, too.
At Guy DiMartino Law, experience alone has understated the importance of a living will in addition to an Indiana last will and testament. Either separate or as complementary elements of your estate plan, these two documents help ensure your wants and wishes with regard to health and property adhere in accordance with Indiana law. That said, these two documents should not be confused because they are completely different.
Below is a brief overview of how living wills work and what their purpose is.
What is a living will?
A living will is a legal instrument that allows you to put down in writing what care you would and would not want in an effort to keep you alive or to extend your life. It does two important things:
- it instructs the medical professionals on how you want your medical care or treatment to be handled in the event you are unable to make the decision yourself for any reason; and
- it appoints a person who can make the same kind of decisions for you under the same type of conditions.
A living will allows you to put in writing your wishes or intents on things like:
- cardiopulmonary resuscitation;
- mechanical ventilation;
- artificially supplied nutrition;
- artificially supplied hydration;
- antibiotics or antiviral medications;
- organ and tissue donations;
- other life-prolonging procedures;
- terminal conditions;
- incurable injuries; and/or, among other things,
- incurable diseases or illnesses.
As mentioned, a living will also allows you to appoint someone you trust to make decisions for you, and this aspect is important in cases where your living will does not address certain medical situations. This person is known in Indiana as a Health Care Representative.
Who needs a living will in Indiana?
If you are 18 or older, you can benefit from a living will. You never know when an illness or accident will impact your health detrimentally to the point you can no longer make decisions about your care. Adults, however, typically consider making a living will when any of the following happen:
- health declines;
- there is a need for surgery or hospitalization;
- there has been a diagnosis of a terminal condition; or, among other reasons,
- there has been a diagnosis of an incurable condition.
On the other hand, if you are younger than 18, you generally cannot have a living will in Indiana. Parents or legal guardians usually have the legal prerogative to make decisions about the medical care of their children.
What are the benefits of having a living will in Indiana?
As already indicated, by planning ahead with a living will, you benefit by making sure if the unexpected life-threatening event happens, you are prepared. Overall benefits of a living will include things like:
- clarifying the medical care and treatment you do and do not want when you can't speak for yourself;
- preventing the State of Indiana from assigning someone to make decisions when that person does not have any idea what you would want;
- allowing some predictability in an unpredictable world; and, among others,
- giving your loved ones some peace of mind that your treatment is in accordance with your values.
How do you make an Indiana living will?
A living will can be drafted on your own and must be of your own volition, but it must follow the laws of Indiana. Indiana estate planning laws can be complex, so it is best to at least have an estate planning attorney review your living will or in the best scenario have an estate planning attorney draft and finalize your living will.
You especially want an attorney to help you with your living will if you want it to be specific – more general living wills do not take as much legal know-how. That said, the more specific you are in the living will, the more likely your wishes will be adhered. And without an experienced attorney, you may not even know what you can direct in your living will to make it specific. Without that knowledge, you may be subjected to treatment you normally would not have wanted.
After your living will is drafted, for your Indiana living will to be legally binding, it must be signed by two witnesses and notarized.
Witnesses must be persons who:
- are at least 18 years of age;
- are not a spouse, a parent, or a child;
- is not legally entitled to any of your estate;
- is not financially responsible for your medical treatment; and
- is not the person appointed by the living will itself to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
Make sure not only your attorney has a copy but also make sure your doctor and any specific family members and/or friends have a copy each. The document is no good if its existence is not known.
Can a living will be changed?
It is important to note that once you have a living will made, it can be modified or otherwise updated at any time. But to change a living will, it essentially means you must create a brand new living will by revoking the old one.
You should distribute new copies of the most-current living will to all persons whom you want to have it. A copy should be with your regular doctor, family members, and/or friends.
You should consider reviewing your living will after or during the following situations:
- Marital status change, e.g., marry, divorce, or become widowed;
- Diagnosis of a disease or illness that is terminal or will significantly change your life; and/or
- Every ten years to ensure the living will continues to reflect your values and wishes for end-of-life situations.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in Michigan City Indiana for Your Living Will Today
If you have not yet created a living will, it is time to consider it. At Guy DiMartino Law, we will sit down with you at our conveniently located office in Michigan City and explain to you the benefits and importance of a living will in Indiana. You can schedule an initial consultation to ask any questions you may have.
Contact us today either online or at (219) 690-8997.