In part 1 of this 2-part series, we defined a living will and how it works. A living will is a legal document that specifies how we want to be medically treated when we are dying or injured to the point where we cannot make decisions for ourselves. In part 2 of this series, we will further explore a living will and other advance directives.


A living will does not become effective unless you are incapacitated. They usually require a certification by your doctor and another doctor stating you are either suffering from a terminal illness or permanently unconscious before a living will becomes effective.


A medical or health care power of attorney is a type of advance directive in which you name a person to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so. This type of advance directive is used in situations where you are incapacitated and therefore not able to speak for yourself, but your health is not so dire that your living will becomes effective. In some states this directive may also be called a durable power of attorney for health care or a health care proxy. The person you choose may be a spouse, other family member, friend or member of a faith community. Choosing a person to act as your health care agent is important. Even if you have other legal documents regarding your care, not all situations can be anticipated and some situations will require someone to make a judgement about your likely care wishes.


Advise your family of your wishes. None of your estate planning documents will be of any benefit if no one knows about them. Once you’ve decided what it is you do or don’t want, make your wishes known to your doctor and your family. Most importantly, make sure that your family knows where your documents are kept and share copies with them!

Keep in mind that advance directives aren’t just for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age so it’s important for all adults to prepare these documents. We strongly recommend you seek the advice of an attorney that specializes in living wills and other advance directives. Requirements can vary by state and it is best to seek an attorney that can help you prepare your living will properly.

For more information regarding a living will and advice regarding your specific situation, contact Gerstenberger Law at (770) 920-7722.


The information found on the Gerstenberger Law site is for educational purposes only. Your situation and the situation of others are unique and more complex. This is neither legal advice nor to be considered legal advice. Contact us for advice about your specific situation.

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