None of us likes to think of a time when we might become incapacitated and unable to make even the most basic decisions. However, the old Boy Scout motto, Be prepared, is an excellent idea. Those who prepare ahead of time for unpleasant life events are ultimately better off, as are their families.
A living will, or a directive to physicians, is a document that clearly defines the types of medical treatment you would like to receive or not receive in certain situations. It can, for instance, instruct your doctors not to use artificial means to extend your life if you are diagnosed with a terminal condition. A related document is a medical power of attorney. This names a trusted person, called your agent, to direct your health care if you are unable to do so yourself. Most people name a spouse, partner, relative or close friend to serve as their agent.
In Texas, it is strongly recommended that citizens have a living will and medical power of attorney. Why? Because if you become incapacitated and unable to make your own medical decisions due to an illness, accident, or old age, these documents can help save your life or ensure that your wishes are followed. If you haven’t recorded your wishes regarding these matters, these decisions will be made by family members you may not want making those decisions, or by doctors or even judges. They make decisions based on what they believe to be best, not what you want.
If you are a competent adult, you can execute a living will in the presence of two disinterested witnesses or a notary public. The living will takes effect when you become a qualified patient, meaning when you become diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition that is certified in writing by your attending physician.
No one lives forever, much as that thought may make us uncomfortable. It is best to consult a family law attorney to draft your living will and related documents in order to be prepared before you actually need them.