A Living Will specifically addresses the medical care you want (or do not want) if you become unable to make your own decisions (in other words, if you become incapacitated). It is called a ‘living” will because it take effect while you are still living.
A Living Will must be executed in the same manner as a Last Will and Testament. That is, you must sign a Living Will in the presence of two witnesses, and the witnesses must sign the Living Will in the presence of each other. It is also recommended that you sign the Living Will in the presence of a Notary Public, thus making it self-proving.
There is no legal requirement that you have a Living Will; however, if you ever need hospitalization, upon admission you will be asked whether or not you have a Living Will. If not, the hospital will have a form living will for you to sign. For incapacitated or developmentally disabled persons without a Living Will (or Health Care Surrogate Designation), decisions about your health care may be made for you by any of the following, in the following order of priority: a court-appointed guardian; spouse; adult child; parent; adult sibling (or majority of the adult siblings if more than one and all are reasonably available for consultation); adult relative who has exhibited special care and concern, who has maintained regular contact, and who is familiar with the patient’s activities, health and religious or moral beliefs; close friend.
You may change or cancel a Living Will at any time. It is recommended that any changes be written, signed, witnessed and dated. However, you can also change your advance directive by oral statement, physical destruction of the Living Will document, or by writing or having a new Living Will prepare that is then signed, witnessed and dated.
Legal issues can arise concerning the withholding of life-prolonging procedures, and the wishes of the patient. For this reason, a Living Will is highly recommended for anyone wanting to maintain control of decisions regarding their medical care in the event of incapacitation.