Q: I am a 44 year old single woman and my immediate family lives cross country. Is it wise for me to create a Living Will and, if so, how do I best do so?
Space allows me only a brief response, but I suggest you create a Living Will (also called an Advance Healthcare Directive) if you do not want life-sustaining treatment or procedures to be administered (meaning healthcare that artificially prolongs the dying process) beyond administration of comfort care, i.e. medication or performance of any medical procedure deemed necessary to relieve pain or provide comfort. It basically tells medical providers that you do not want to be kept alive by machines if there is no realistic hope of getting better.
The purpose of a Living Will is to legally document your intention in this regard in the event you are unable to make informed medical decisions due to incapacity from a terminal condition.
While your condition and the terms of your directive may be subject to interpretation (ex: a debate as to whether the situation is terminal), patient's wishes are taken quite seriously and this document will help inform as to your specific intentions for those who are advocating on your behalf.
Indeed, you may also prepare a document designating someone (an agent) by way of a Healthcare Proxy, allowing that person to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot do so yourself. Make sure this person is chosen carefully, as the decisional authority will apply to all circumstances when you are incapacitated, not just when your condition is deemed terminal.
Having a Living Will can spare your family from having to make difficult decisions for you. And to create one, while you can find examples on line I suggest you may want to consult a lawyer who can provide one particularly tailored to your needs. It generally is required to be in writing, signed by you, dated, signed by two adult witnesses and notarized.
Here's hoping you never need use the Living Will, but for many it can be a source of comfort just knowing that it is there in case of unanticipated incapacity.
DISCLAIMER: This publication is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney/client relationship by way of any information contained herein. The information provided is for general purposes only, as readers are advised to consult with a qualified lawyer regarding the specifics of their particular circumstances.