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A living will is an essential tool in any thoughtful estate plan. A living will is a legal document that contains your instructions to your family members and medical care providers in the event you are on life support. The living will alone is not a do not resuscitate, but a living will can include those instructions. The living will is typically paired with a healthcare power of attorney in a set of documents commonly referred to as “advance directives.” Adults of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from preparing and signing advance directives. Still, this article will focus on living wills in Indiana and if there are any updates to Indian living wills in 2023. Read on to find out more about living wills in Indiana.  


What Is A Living Will?


In Indiana, the living will is usually referred to as a declaration and is also broadly known as an “advance directive.” The living will is a legal document that lets your family, friends, and healthcare providers know what life-saving steps you want to take if you are placed on life support or are about to undergo a surgical procedure.  


A living will can instruct what care you receive in the event of the following set of medical circumstances:  


1-you have an incurable illness, injury, or disease,  

2-your death will occur in a short period of time, and  

3-placing you on life support or continuing life support would only prolong the process of dying  


Many people would not wish to remain on life support if they knew there was no way for them to come back and lead a normal, healthy, and fulfilling life. Furthermore, the medical costs associated with prolonged life support and the considerable emotional strain that loved ones will feel usually lead to the decision to create a living will. You can keep the document simple, or you can explicitly outline the steps you want to take in what situations. Some people choose to allow that nourishment and hydration be allowed. Some people agree that comfort measures are taken in the form of painkillers, and some choose to forgo all measures and instruct that their medical team let nature take its course.  


Have There Been Any Updates To Living Wills In Indiana?


There are no new updates to Indiana living wills that take effect in 2023. The last update to the living will requirements was back in 2021, when the state of Indiana widened the number of issues that a living will, known in Indiana as a “declaration,” could address. For updates to Indiana estate planning read our article, Indiana Estate Planning Changes.  

living will paperwork with gavel


When Is The Right Time To Create Or Update A Living Will?


Any adult eighteen or older should have a living will so that their personal wishes are known by their family and medical care providers. The living will offers direction to the people who care about you regarding the most challenging situation they may ever face. The living will is your chance to make it clear what you want to be done if you should ever be in a life-or-death situation and unable to communicate. While ideally, every adult would have a living will, most people don’t think about it until faced with a significant life change. Here are some major life events that should make you strongly consider either creating a living will or updating the one you already have:  


1-If you have children  

2-If you get married  

3-If you find that you are seriously ill or require surgery  

4-If you go through an experience where your spiritual or religious beliefs change  


Again, even if you don’t have any of the above situations happening in your life, you should strongly consider creating a simple living will. Think of the living will as a gift to yourself and your family members. Facing the decision of whether or not to keep a loved one on life support is mentally, emotionally, and financially draining. Do yourself and your family a favor and clarify what you would want if they could sit down and ask you.  


Does The Living Will Need To Be Notarized?


The rules for what kind of document the living will has to be are actually pretty relaxed. The living will can be a paper or digital document. The living will need to be signed by you, of course, and it needs to be signed by two witnesses. Do not ask the family members responsible for making health care decisions for you to witness the living will; you only need two people who can confirm your identity at the time of signing. If you cannot find two witnesses, then you can use a notary to validate your signature on the living will.  


Additional Considerations  


A living will is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. If you also prepare a healthcare power of attorney or have a chosen healthcare decision maker, the living will you create will not cancel out these documents. The living will is simply the expression of what you want to be done for you in the event you are on life support. If you have a previous living will that is radically different from your most recent living will, you should make it clear in your most recent living will that this one takes precedence in order to avoid confusion. Keep your family and medical healthcare provider updated on these documents, you can even provide them with a copy for them to keep. Keep in mind that a living will is not the same legal document as a testamentary will, which is where you distribute your property after your death.  


Although the topic of estate planning and living wills can be depressing for many, taking care of these types of things now, while you are young and healthy, can be a great weight off your shoulders. Knowing what will happen if you become injured or sick and cannot communicate your wishes directly can give you great peace of mind. Take the time to schedule a consult with an experienced Indiana estate planning attorney to discuss all of your estate planning goals early, so that you can move on in life with a light heart. If you have estate planning needs and would like to talk to someone, feel free to call O’Flaherty Law; we would be happy to help you.

January 4, 2023
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