living will vs power of attorney

Illinois Living Wills Explained | What is a Living Will?

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Updated on:
July 10, 2018

What is a living will? In this article we will explain living wills in Illinois and discuss using a Living Will to provide for end of life instruction.  This article is the fifth in a series of nine articles explaining the Eight Goals of a Good Estate Plan.  

In our previous article, we discussed using a Healthcare Power of Attorney to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are mentally incompetent.  A Living Will is a tool used to make the decision, while you are still mentally competent, to terminate life-sustaining treatment in the event that you are in an irreversible vegetative state.  The Living Will takes this decision out of the hands of your healthcare agent.

​If you have a Living Will in your medical file, your physician is instructed to terminate life-sustaining treatment if you are in a vegetative state and the doctor does not believe that there is any continued purpose to life-sustaining treatment other than keeping you perpetually in that vegetative state.  Essentially, the doctor will terminate life support if he or she does not believe there is a realistic chance of bringing you out of a coma.  In the absence of a Living Will, your healthcare agent or next of kin (in the absence of a Healthcare Power of Attorney) would be charged with making the decision of whether to continue life-sustaining treatment.

Whether to include a Living Will in your estate plan is a purely personal choice.  It is not something that I advise either for or against.

‍The reasons that my clients typically choose to execute a Living Will are:

  • to avoid saddling their loved ones with the emotional burden of terminating life sustaining treatment;
  • they are strongly opposed to be kept in a vegetative state for an extended period of time due to their loved ones’ unwillingness to let go; and
  • they wish to avoid saddling their loved ones with the cost of extended life-sustaining treatment.

As an alternative to a living will, many clients will simply leave either verbal or written instruction as to their wishes with their healthcare agents.  There is even a portion of the Healthcare Power of Attorney that allows you to provide this instruction, while leaving the ultimate legal decision-making power in your loved ones’ hands.

Presented By O'Flaherty Law

O'Flaherty Law is happy to meet with you by phone or at our offices in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Naperville, St. Charles, Lake in the Hills and Tinley Park, Illinois.

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Illinois Living Wills Explained | What is a Living Will?
Disclaimer: Our articles and comment responses do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.

Please contact us to schedule a free consultation for legal advice specific to your situation.

what is a living will?what is the difference between a will and a living will?what is the difference between a living will and a durable power of attorney?

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