A living will is a separate legal document, not a part of your will. And, it’s not the same as a durable power of attorney for health care. The latter allows your agent to make health care decisions for you. A living will, on the other hand, allows you to state in writing your preferences about life-prolonging medical treatment.
In a living will, you can declare that you wish medical professionals to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures or non-orally ingested food and water — if you are in an incurable condition, or you’re near death, or you’re in a persistent vegetative state.
Your living will takes effect only when you become incapacitated, cannot speak for yourself, and there’s no hope for your recovery.
Your durable power of attorney agent also can make these sorts of end-of-life health care decisions for you, if you grant that power. If you have both a living will and durable power of attorney for health care, the latter rules if there is any conflict between the two.
The current law regarding living wills went into effect Nov. 25, 1991. If your living will was written before then, you should have your attorney review it to be sure it still expresses your wishes.
For more information on durable power of attorney for health care and living wills, see the State Bar of Wisconsin’s pamphlet, Answering Your Questions About Health Care.
This is one in a series of consumer information pamphlets sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin. This pamphlet, which is based on Wisconsin law, is issued to inform and not to advise. No person should ever apply or interpret any law without the aid of a trained expert who knows the facts, because the facts may change the application of the law.
Other titles include: Arrest; Bankruptcy; Buying/Selling Residential Real Estate; Choosing a Process for Divorce; Custody and Placement; Durable Powers of Attorney; Divorce; Guardians Ad Litem in Family Court; Health Care; Hiring/Working with a Lawyer; Landlord/Tenant Law; Marital Property; Personal Injury; Probate; Revocable Living Trusts; Small Claims Court; Starting a Business; Traffic Accidents; Wills/Estate Planning.
1/2011. © State Bar of Wisconsin