PA Living Wills / Advance Health Care Directives in Pennsylvania
Thorough end-of-life planning is not complete without a discussion of Living Wills. The term "Living Will" is something of a misnomer, however, because Living Wills have nothing to do with Wills. A Will designates where you want your property to go when you pass away, whereas a Living Will gives instructions to your doctor about whether you want to be kept alive if you are in a terminal condition or a state of permanent unconsciousness. Thus, Pennsylvania Living Wills are also called Advance Health Care Directives.
The Pennsylvania Legislature has enacted the Advance Directive for Health Care Act. In that law, the Legislature found that:
all competent adults have a qualified right to control decisions relating to their own medical care. This right is subject to certain interests of society, such as the maintenance of ethical standards in the medical profession and the preservation and protection of human life. Modern medical technological procedures make possible the prolongation of human life beyond natural limits. The application of some procedures to an individual suffering a difficult and uncomfortable process of dying may cause loss of patient dignity and secure only continuation of a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life.
In making a PA Living Will, you simply tell the doctor how what kind of treatment you want (or do not want) if you are in a terminal condition or a state of permanent unconsciousness. Since if you happen to be in a state of permanent unconsciousness you will not be able to tell your doctor about your wishes, the Advance Directive tells the doctor ahead of time, when you still have a chance to consider all of your options and to have discussions with your family and your healthcare professionals.
A declaration becomes operative when: (1) a copy is provided to the attending physician; and (2) the declarant is determined by the attending physician to be incompetent and in a terminal condition or in a state of permanent unconsciousness. There is very little risk that you will be denied treatment in an emergency or if there is a possibility of you regaining function.
Beware, however, of using a free living will form, or a sample advance directive form. While using a living will form may be tempting, your Pennsylvania living will should be executed in proper legal fashion, and it should be part of a comprehensive estate plan. For example, you have the ability to designate a medical surrogate as part of your living will. You may create confusion and uncertainty if you have designated a different person to make decisions for you in a Health Care Power of Attorney. You may have questions in filling out the form that are best answered by an experienced attorney.
Another reason not to use an advance directive form is that at the law firm of Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C., Living Wills are simply not very expensive. We charge only $25.00 to meet with you and to discuss and draft your Advance Health Care Directive. We provide an original for you and one for your doctor, as well as one for us to have on file for you. While you are discussing Living Wills with us, we can also discuss Wills, Powers of Attorney, Trusts, and your entire estate plan. Our consultations for these matters are free. We have experience probating Wills in Montgomery County, Berks County, and Chester County. Please consider the attorneys at Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C. before you use a generic living will form. Click here to contact us today.
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