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What is a living will?

A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that states your wishes in future life and death situations. This is also known as a "DNR" (Do Not Resuscitate). It would only be put into effect if you were physically unable to express your wishes or if you weren’t of sound mind. For example, being unconscious or having dementia.

Before your living will can be used, two independent doctors must be in agreement as to your condition and your inability to effectively communicate your wishes.

Despite their similar names, a will and a living will have two very distinct and different purposes. A standard will is a legal document that allows you to express your wishes on who inherits your estate when you pass away. 

If you are looking to state your wishes for matters regarding your estate please refer to our section on wills.

A living will cannot:

  • Request anything which is against the law (e.g. assisted suicide)
  • Allow you to refuse basic care, including food, drink and pain relief
  • Give authority to anyone to make decisions about what medical care you receive

The importance of a living will

A living will can help your loved ones to know and respect your wishes and avoid added pressure at a difficult time. It may be that in the past, you have had to make the decisions on behalf of someone else and know how tough it can be.
 

By creating a living will, you are able to express your medical decisions, but by appointing a health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA) you have someone you trust who is able to act on your behalf should you lose the mental capacity to do so.
 

Creating your living will is simple with Key; usually, it only takes one telephone consultation.

How does a living will work?

A living will is not technically a legal term but it usually refers to advance decisions or statements.

An advance decision

  • Allows you to identify which treatments you would like to refuse in certain circumstances, such as a wish to not be resuscitated. It must define the exact medications you would like to decline in situations that have to be clearly set out.

An advance statement

  • Clearly states your wishes, preferences, values and beliefs regarding your medical care where you wish to receive the maximum treatment available with a hope of recovery.

Living wills vs LPAs

Living Wills

A living will and a lasting power of attorney are both legal documents that ensure your wishes are carried out in a scenario where your are not able to express them yourself.

A living will is specifically for if you wish to have a "DNR" (Do Not Resuscitate) request in the case of a future life or death scenario.
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LPAs

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) gives the person(s) of your choice power to make decisions on your financial and welfare affairs.

Your health and welfare LPA can also work alongside your living will. For more information please read our page on lasting powers of attorney.
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Estate planning

Things to consider

These pages give a general overview of the issues surrounding estate planning and are based on our understanding of the current law and tax regulation in England and Wales, which may be subject to change.