When preparing documents to meet future needs, many people in Wheaton focus on financial matters. While finances are important, however, they are only part of the picture. Your health and health care decisions may have a greater impact on yourself and your family than any other facet of life.

Living wills in Wheaton should be a part of everybody’s estate plan. A living will could help ensure that your desires and wishes for health care are known and carried out, dramatically decreasing stress on your family. To ensure that a living will works as intended, many families choose to work with a Wheaton estate planning attorney when preparing their living wills and related documents.

Understanding the Living Will

The term living “will” is somewhat misleading. While a traditional will describes the disposition of property after someone’s death, a living will is not concerned with property.

When properly prepared and executed, a living will is a legally-binding instrument that informs doctors of an individual’s desires regarding end-of-life care. A living will communicates and provides authority to take action when an individual is no longer able to communicate on their own. Living wills in Wheaton take effect when someone is suffering from a terminal condition and is either unconscious or too ill to transmit instructions directly.

Terms in Living Wills

Generally, living wills enable the person creating the document to specify whether they do or do not wish healthcare professionals to provide certain types of care in specified situations when that care might prolong life but not provide healing. Some living wills in Wheaton contain a statement expressing the creator’s intent to avoid artificially postponing the onset of death.

Under the state’s Living Will Act, individuals may create a document directing doctors to withhold “death delaying procedures” to prolong their lives if they are suffering from a “terminal condition”. 755 Ill. Comp. Stat. §35/2 defines “death delaying procedures” to include all types of medical intervention that serves only to postpone death. Examples of treatment that could be declined include:

  • Artificial ventilation
  • Intravenous feeding
  • Blood transfusions
  • Kidney treatments
  • Tube feeding

However, the statute specifies that nutrition and water should not be withheld if the patient would die solely from these deficiencies rather than an underlying terminal condition.

Requirements For Living Wills in Wheaton

To be valid as a legally-binding documents, living wills in Wheaton must meet the statutory requirements set forth in 755 Ill. Comp. Stat. §35/3. First, the person creating the living will must be at least 18-years-old or legally emancipated. Second, an individual must be of sound mind to execute their living will.

The document must be signed by the person who is the subject of the living will, or by another person at the subject’s direction. In addition, the living will must be witnessed by two other people who are at least 18-years-old.

The statute provides for a living will to take effect only when the person who created the document suffers from a “terminal condition”. To be considered terminal, the condition must be incapable of cure and so severe that death is imminent. If the person who executed a living will is pregnant and the doctors believe that the administration of death-delaying procedures would allow the fetus to develop and be born alive, then the law specifies that the provisions would be effectively ignored for a time.

More About Living Wills in Wheaton

It is generally recommended that individuals execute a health care power of attorney as well as a living will. A power of attorney enables a trusted individual to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Preparing a health care power of attorney could avoid the need for costly guardianship proceedings.

An estate planning lawyer could prepare healthcare directives custom-designed to meet your needs. Living wills in Wheaton fill an essential role in estate planning, but an experienced planner may suggest other documents as well.