Understanding the Living Will: How it Can Help and When it is Used

In today’s world, it’s important to have plans for the future. More often than ever, people are realising that they need to have a plan in place in case of extreme illness or injury. While some individuals may already have advanced directives set at their local hospital, it’s also important to consider having a living will in place. Living wills serve to provide medical professionals, families, and more with instructions should you become incapacitated. This can include everything from when to remove life support, through how to handle finances when you are unable to.

When are Living Wills Used?

Living wills are usually prepared in the event that someone has good reason to expect that they may become infirm or injured, but they can be put into place by anyone who has the desire to do so. They are also frequently used by those who don’t wish to have certain medical procedures done, should they become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves.


Living wills may also be chosen an enacted when someone has been diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness, whether a terminal diagnosis has been issued or not. This frequently applies to degenerative conditions, conditions like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or heart disease. Choosing to use a living will in these situations ensures that plans are in place long before an issue comes up. This helps to reduce the stress and anxiety many people feel when given a poor prognosis.

Why are Living Wills Used?

Simply put, living wills help to reduce the stress families and loved ones experience when trying to make decisions on the fly. They also help to protect your wishes when you are incapacitated. They can ensure that certain protocols are followed if and when you pass away, such as preventing life support if brain death has occurred, or it is confirmed that you will never get well again. Or, they can be used to specify for how long life support should be engaged, and when it is appropriate to withdraw it later on. They can even indicate that you wish life support to be prolonged, should that be your wish.

You do not necessarily need to be incapacitated in order for a living will to be enacted, although that is the most common usage of this type of will. It can also be used to ensure that your chosen treatment methods are used during illnesses. This can help to prevent your decisions being overridden in your best interests. This can be particularly important if you have a history of mental illness, as you can cement treatment decisions while you are well in the event that you become unwell again.

What Else Should be Done in the Event that a Living Will is Needed?

 If you choose to enact a living will, there are other steps that you should take at the same time. It’s beneficial to you to designate a Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney before making out your living will. This individual should be:

       Someone who is of legal age of majority prior to the assignment

       Someone who you trust with your legal, financial, and medical affairs

       A person whom you are close to

       Alternatively, a solicitor or other legal representative

       Someone who you believe can make impartial decisions on your behalf

How Can a Living Will be Enacted?

 In most areas, a living will can be specified during an appointment with your lawyer. While any written out indication that follows standard living will requirements can qualify, it’s better to have your living will notarised and validated by a solicitor to ensure that all legal requirements have been followed to the letter. This will increase the chances that your will can cover all of the potential issues that may come up when and if you become incapacitated.

Affording Your Legal Will

 Legal services can be expensive. There are many ways to go about getting your legal will in the United Kingdom today. Many people can and do hire solicitors or use their current solicitor. Others choose to go with legal services through not-for-profit groups like The Co-Operative Group.  If you choose to use a solicitor, some can defer your payments over several months. Others may choose to work on a pro bono basis, and others may simply charge regular fees.



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