In this week’s column Cara Burr from Mogers Drewett looks at questions surrounding Living Wills.
Most people have strong feelings about what should happen to their affairs after their death. But many also have equally strong feelings about how they would like to be treated toward the end of their life. Living Wills can provide you with some valuable control in the last days or weeks of your life. However, Living Wills remain far less common than ordinary Wills.
What are Living Wills?
A Living Will is an informal term for Advance Directive. Advance Directives became legally enforceable under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Since then, medical practitioners can face serious consequences if they ignore the terms of a valid Advance Directive. An Advance Directive does not, as some believe, list the circumstances in which you are happy ’to give up the ghost’. It is much more than that, and it lets you chose when you would wish treatment to continue. The circumstances where the Advance Directive should kick in must therefore be carefully considered and worded. The Advance Directive must make clear that it can only be used on your behalf if you have lost the necessary mental capacity to speak for yourself. No one else can make an Advance Directive for you if you have already lost capacity.
If I have a Living Will do I still need a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney?
Many people think that because they have a Living Will, they do not need a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). That is not the case. Whilst Health and Welfare LPAs also allow third parties to make decisions on your behalf regarding medical treatment that may either prolong or shorten your life (if you have lost the mental capacity to decide for yourself), they also have a much wider remit and let those you trust be responsible for your general welfare should the need arise. For example, with a Health and Welfare LPA you can ensure that your attorneys can speak for you regarding where you live, who should visit you, and even what clothes you would like to wear.
What are the advantages of a Living Will?
An Advance Directive can prove hugely reassuring for people who find themselves faced with a terminal illness when the likely treatment path is fairly clear. For others, it is important to review your Advance Directive frequently as your health changes and as medical practices develop. For everyone, ensuring that you have signed a Health and Welfare LPA is an important part of preparing for old age.
For further information or advice on this subject please call 01749 342323