A living will is a legal document that allows individuals to communicate their wishes regarding the type of medical treatment they do or do not wish to receive in the event of a serious illness or injury. Living wills are different from a last will and testament because a living will does not state how a person would like to distribute property after death.
At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we take the time to listen to our clients’ needs and goals carefully. We know discussing end-of-life matters can be challenging, and our compassionate attorneys will answer your questions and help you make informed decisions about end-of-life medical decisions. Contact Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC to schedule an initial consultation and learn more about how we can help you.
What Is a Living Will in Virginia?
The Virginia Health Care Decisions Act authorizes living wills. Living wills provide individuals a way to express their personal preferences about medical care if they cannot communicate their preferences due to a serious illness or injury. Under Virginia law, any mentally competent person 18 years of age or older can make a living will. Living wills are legally binding documents, and doctors may rely on the preferences stated in the living will when making medical decisions. The living will needs to meet the following requirements:
- It must be in writing
- The person making the living will must be mentally competent at the time the will was signed
- The person making the living will must be at least 18
- The living will must be signed in the presence of two competent witnesses
- The witnesses must be at least 18 and must sign the living will
Employees of the treating physical, hospital, or health care facility are permitted to act as witnesses to living wills in Virginia. When a patient can still communicate his or her wishes, the doctor will follow the patient’s directives. The provisions in the living will are only enforceable after the individual has been declared incapacitated and unable to make decisions.
The Benefits of Working with an Experienced Living Wills Attorney
Working with an estate planning attorney can help you create a legally valid living will that addresses all of your wishes. Most of the work involved in creating a living will occur before your attorney drafts the will. The attorneys at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC can help you with the formal process of drafting your legal will after we take the time to understand your preferences fully. Understanding what to put in a living will before you begin drafting it can help you avoid potentially costly errors and require do-overs.
What to Include in a Living Will
Choosing what to include in your living will is entirely up to you. The attorneys at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC can walk you through the different types of medical decisions you may need to make in a situation involving a serious illness or injury. There are certain areas most living will cover, mainly the individual’s preferences regarding common life-sustaining medical treatments. In your living will, you can state whether you’d like doctors to attempt to restart your heart if it stops beating by using CPR or fibrillation.
You may want to state whether you’d like doctors to take measures to help you breathe, such as inserting tubes in your throat or placing you on a ventilator. In emergency situations, many patients are unable to eat and drink on their own. In your living will, you can state whether you’d like to be indefinitely hydrated and fed if you are in a vegetative state. You can also make your wishes known regarding what type of pain management options you’d like to receive. Other issues you may want to address in your living will include the following:
- Whether you want to donate your organs or tissues
- Whether you consent to emergency surgery should that scenario arrive
- The types of injunctions or medicines you are willing to take
- What to do if you are in a coma for a prolonged time period
- Other decisions associated with your specific cultural, individual, or religious preferences
Oral Living Wills
When a patient has been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition, he or she can create a legally binding oral living will. An oral living will allow a person to express end-of-life treatment preferences and appoint a healthcare agent. An oral living will does not have to be written down to be legally enforceable. However, the oral living will must be verbally made in the presence of the patient’s doctor and two eligible witnesses.
What If I Created a Living Will in Another State and Moved to Virginia?
Virginia will recognize a living will or advance health care directive made in another state. The document must be legally valid and enforceable under the laws of the state in which it was created. If you have questions about the validity of an out-of-state living will, we recommend scheduling a consultation to discuss your case with one of our estate planning attorneys.
The Difference Between a Living Will and an Advance Care Directive
People generally associate end-of-life decisions with living wills. In addition to a living will, every estate plan should also include an advance care directive. Sometimes people use the terms living will and advance health care directive interchangeably. However, an advance care directive specifically allows estate planners to appoint a healthcare agent who can make decisions about their medical care if they are unable to do so.
Contact a Virginia Living Will Attorney
If you have any questions, concerns, or issues related to drafting a living will in Virginia, the attorneys at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC are here to help. Our experienced attorneys will work with you to draft a living will that meets all state requirements and clearly states your wishes. Contact Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC to schedule an initial consultation.