Princeton Living Wills Lawyer
Princeton Living Wills Lawyer
Many people confuse a living will with a last will and testament. The name adds to the confusion. However, these are distinct documents which serve different purposes in an estate plan.
With a last will and testament, you can decide who will serve as your estate executor and who inherits your assets. By contrast, with a living will, you decide what kinds of end-of-life medical care you want to receive when you become terminally ill. Put simply, a living will instructs medical providers to provide certain care—and to withhold other care.
At Scott Counsel, P.C., we use living wills to help clients control their medical care when severe illness or incapacity limits their ability to talk to doctors. Our clients enjoy the peace of mind knowing that they won’t receive life support if they don’t want to and can die with peace and dignity.
How a Living Will Works
In this document, you identify what life support treatment you want when your condition is terminal and you cannot speak for yourself. A terminal diagnosis essentially means that medical care will not improve your condition. Think of terminal cancer, where any additional surgery or chemo is fruitless.
Of course, if you are conscious, you can always instruct doctors as to what care you want. The problem arises when you lose consciousness or the ability to think clearly. At that point, you don’t have legal capacity and the entire medical machinery is organized around extending your life for as long as possible.
Many of our clients, however, don’t want to be hooked up to a machine for months or years when there is no chance of ever getting better. In a living will, you can instruct whether you want any of the following:
- Mechanical respiration
- Cardiac resuscitation
- Artificial feeding
- Pain relief
A valid living will becomes effective when a doctor finds that your condition is terminal. Doctors and other medical professionals must honor it.
Difference Between a Living Will & Do Not Resuscitate Order
Some people have Do Not Resuscitate Orders, called DRNs. They are very similar to living wills—but ultimately not the same. A DNR only applies if you are unconscious and your heart stops beating and/or you stop breathing. Some people don’t want to be revived, so they sign a DNR which will be kept on file at a doctor’s office or hospital, or both.
With a living will, you can address many more issues. It can also instruct whether you want to be resuscitated or not. But it goes beyond that to contemplate other types of life-support such as feeding tubes and artificial respiration. We work with clients to consider whether they want to be revived in the event they stop breathing.
Choosing a Health Care Representative
New Jersey law also allows people to appoint a health care representative. This person has the power to make medical decisions when you lack capacity. Although the representative must follow the living will, there might be situations which arise which you did not consider. This person then has the legal ability to decide whether you receive care.
Your choice of representative is important. Avoid appointing someone without first talking with them about your wishes. Too many people automatically assume they know who will make an effective health care representative. But as we have seen, sometimes the person is too stressed to make difficult, end-of-life decisions.
Many family disputes erupt over whether Mom or Dad should receive end of life care. Some children might passionately believe that all medical care should be tried, even if your condition is terminal. Thus, your choice of health care representative must have good relations with your family but, more importantly, possess the confidence to make decisions in the face of hostility and opposition.
Our legal team can help you choose a health care representative. Ideally, this person should live close enough to you that they aren’t making medical decisions by telephone. It is inconvenient for some people to hop on a plane and get to a hospital when you slip into a coma, so proximity is often a key consideration. Similarly, your representative should not lack capacity to make decisions herself. As we age, even our children might be very old and not in good shape to make these types of calls.
Work with a Seasoned Princeton Living Wills Attorney
It might be tempting to print off a living will template online and complete it yourself. Some clients wrongly believe that they are saving money this way. In reality, they could make things difficult for themselves:
- If the living will is drafted inaccurately, then it is ineffective. Medical professionals will not need to follow it because it is not a legal document.
- You might fail to have the living will properly witnesses, thus making it ineffective.
- A vague or confusing living will could make a headache for your health care representative to understand your wishes.
- You might fail to name a health care representative, which complicates matters. Children could end up making choices when you don’t want them involved in this type of decision.
- Your living will should work with other legal documents in the estate plan, such as a power of attorney.
- The do-it-yourself template might not even be created for New Jersey but for another state.
Another important benefit of meeting with an attorney is choosing a health care representative you are confident in. We can discuss your fears and help you choose who among your relatives or acquaintances will best serve the role.
Experienced Princeton Living Wills Lawyer
Over several decades, Scott Counsel has assisted many people create advance directives, including living wills. It is never too early to begin thinking about end-of-life care. Even young people could suffer a devastating accident or receive a cancer diagnosis. The best way to die with dignity is to think through the medical care you want when you can no longer express your wishes.
To get started, please contact our law firm today by calling (856) 281-3131 or send us an online message. Our consultations are fully confidential.
– When my son, who has Cystic Fibrosis and CF related diabetes, was suddenly and unexpectedly removed from his Medicaid program, we were devastated and frightened not knowing where we would get the resources to pay for his extremely high priced prescriptions. Justin was the attorney who handled our case. From the very beginning, he proved to be very thorough and experienced with navigating the process of reversing the Medicaid decision. However, it was his apparent kind, caring nature that made us feel the most at ease. Justin was successful in securing a continuation of benefits for my son, and we are extremely grateful for having his expertise during this most stressful ongoing process. Thank you, Justin!
VIRTUAL visits now available
With your health and safety as our number one priority, we are implementing new ways to help you