An Advance Medical Directive, or "living will," is a special power of attorney that allows you to state what you want for your own medical care should you become unable to make that decision for yourself. By law, in the absence of such a directive your next of kin would make those decisions for you, but no matter how close you are to that person, he or she may not be in a position to know what you really want. A living will removes all uncertainty and frees your family from making painful choices.

The living will must be properly witnessed to be effective (in Virginia, one person must witness your signature; in DC, you need two witnesses), and may contain additional provisions for organ donation and power of attorney for health care. If nothing else, it will provide peace of mind that if the unthinkable happens, your family and friends will not have to deal with unnecessary heartbreak and a potentially emotionally charged fight over what to do.

What can you include in a living will?

A living will typically has two main sections: a health care power of attorney and a designation of end-of-life decisions.

The health care power of attorney designates a person (or persons) as your agent to make treatment decisions in the event you are incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently. By law, the patient's next of kin acts as agent if there is no power of attorney.

You may also designate end-of-life decisions in your living will if you ever become permanently incapacitated or brain-dead.

Other directives that you may include are funeral arrangements and organ donation for scientific or medical purposes.

If you would like a living will, call us for a consultation at (571) 393-1236, or send us an e-mail.


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