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Living Wills

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is a document that instructs your doctors, family, and friends regarding the type of medical care you want to receive (or have withheld) in the event you become unable to express your own wishes.

As long as you are able to express your own desires, those will be followed by your doctors.

But if you become incapacitated, it is critical that you have your wishes expressed in a written document that you have signed. That’s your Living Will.

The circumstances that might trigger the need for the Living Will are many: An accident, a stroke, Alzheimer disease, or general dementia are the most common. If one of these circumstances arises for a person who does not have a Living Will, then the medical presumption is that you want your physicians and health care providers to do everything possible to resuscitate and sustain you. No medical treatment will be withheld. No matter what.

But if you have a signed Living Will that explains the care that you want, then your expressed wishes will be followed.

Who Needs a Living Will?

The short answer is that everyone needs a Living Will. Though we typically think of a Living Wills as only being needed by those approaching the end of their days, the possibility of an accident or an incapacitating illness occurring makes it important that everyone -- regardless of age -- have a Living Will.

What Types of Care can you Choose or Decline?

Your Living Will offers various levels of medical assistance in the event you become incapacitated. Broadly speaking, those choices address (1) whether you want your medical care to be continued or withheld, and (2) whether you want to receive food and/or water.

Under Idaho law, here’s how the options may be combined in the event you are incapacitated:

  1. Continue the medical care, as well as the food and water. Do everything possible to keep you alive;
  2. Discontinue the medical care, but continue both your food and your water;
  3. Discontinue the medical care, but continue the water;
  4. Discontinue the medical care, but continue the food; or
  5. Discontinue everything -- your medical care, as well as your food and water.
Appointing Your Agent

Your Living Will also involves the appointment of an Agent who will make sure your stated wishes are carried out.

Your agent can be any adult you desire except for your physician or other health care provider. You can appoint your spouse or your adult children. Or a close friend or trusted advisor.

It is also a good idea to appoint both a primary Agent, as well as backup agents who will serve in the event that your primary Agent is unavailable.

The appointment of the Agent in your Living Will includes a “Power of Attorney for Health Care.” By that Power of Attorney, your agent is formally given the authority to act on your behalf, but only in connection with making medical decisions if you’re incapacitated. And your Agent is only authorized to make decisions consistent with your wishes stated in the Living Will. This Power of Attorney does not give other authority to your Agent.

Let us Know how we can Help

A thorough estate plan in Idaho will always include a Living Will and its Power of Attorney for Health Care.

If you have questions, please call our attorneys at 208-939-2600 to receive an immediate answer.

Or you can call Peters Patchin & Monaghan to set up a free initial consultation to discuss either your own Living Will or the options available for your entire Estate Plan.

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