Some people who are creating an estate plan might want a living will as part of it. A living will outlines a person’s wishes for health care, including end-of-life care, in the event of incapacity. Laws regarding living wills differ from state to state, and in New Jersey, two witnesses must validate the will. Furthermore, if a physician is not willing to follow an individual’s wishes as outlined in the document, another doctor must take over the person’s care.
In order to be recognized as valid, in addition to having witnesses, a living will must be prepared by a competent adult, signed and dated. If a person names a spouse as the health care representative and the two get a divorce, that position is revoked. The document itself can be revoked by a notification in speech or writing or by creating a new living will. A person’s expressed wishes also override what is in the document.
Among the issues a living will can address are whether to accept the services of a particular health care provider and whether to have certain treatments or procedures. A living will also addresses what kind of interventions the person wants in order to sustain life, such as whether to continue getting fluid and nutrition in certain circumstances.
There are other documents a person might want as part of an estate plan in case of becoming incapacitated. Some people may want a health care proxy that appoints someone to make medical decisions on their behalf. People who have their assets in a trust may set it up so that a successor trustee steps in to manage their finances if they become incapacitated, but most people do not have trusts. They may want to consider a power of attorney that appoints someone to take over their finances.