When people are beginning their end-of-life planning, they often become confused by the different terms. One question we hear quite often is, “What is the difference between a living will and an advance directive?” The two terms mean similar things, so it is understandable that they sometimes get used wrongly. To clear up the confusion, here are the definitions of both terms.
An advance directive is a broad term that includes all legal orders concerning your wishes toward future medical care. There are three main types of advance directives, namely:
When you are no longer capable of making decisions about your own health care, then your advance directive will help inform your doctor and health care team how to proceed. The instructions in an advance directive may explain what your preferences are concerning life-sustaining efforts, organ donation, and the use of certain medications or surgeries. An advance directive can also name a specific person whom you delegate to make health care decisions on your behalf.
Advance directives are legally binding, but they are also different from state to state. It’s important to know your state’s requirements.
A living will is one type of advance directive. It is a legal, written document that explains your wishes concerning your own health care at the end of your life when you are no longer able to make decisions. Living wills focus on the wishes of someone who is terminally ill or has had a terminal injury. In a living will, you can explain which types of health care you wish to receive, and which types you do not wish to receive, at the end of your life. Many living wills express a person’s wish to decline health care treatments that serve only to postpone the moment of death.
Living wills are a legal document, but not all states allow them.
My Living Wishes will help you navigate your end-of-life documents. We will determine what your state allows, and we will prepare the necessary documents that you want. Contact us if you have any questions concerning advance directives or living wills.