Your Living Will: A “Must-Do” in 2013

By Avow Hospice, Inc. –

Living WillNo one wants to think about the possibility of becoming seriously ill or having a condition or accident that leaves them unable to speak for themselves. If this were to happen to you, would your family know how you’d like to be cared for? If you had completed a Living Will before becoming ill, they would.

Having a Living Will in place can save you from suffering treatments you don’t want. They can also spare your family the agony of making decisions for you without knowing your wishes.

In the state of Florida, any resident can write a legally valid Living Will without the help or advice of an attorney. Many organizations, including Avow Hospice in Collier County, offer free Living Will kits that include simple instructions and all the forms you need.

So make one of the first things you check off your new year’s resolution list in 2013 the completion of your Living Will. To help you get started, here are frequently asked questions and their answers.

What should a Living Will contain?
At the most basic, it should include 1) your instructions for how you want to be cared for, and 2) the name of the person you want to make decisions for you if you have little to no chance of recovery and cannot make decisions for yourself. This person is called your “surrogate.” He or she has no power to make financial decisions for you.

You may also want your Living Will to include instructions for how you would like your body to be treated after death (buried or cremated), where you would prefer your remains to be placed and what kind of memorial service you would like. You might also include special messages to people you love.

What kinds of decisions should I consider when completing my Living Will?
• How do you feel about surgery, CPR, drugs, ventilators or tube feeding if you were to become terminally ill? If you were unconscious and unlikely to wake up? If you were senile?

• What kind of medical treatment would you want if you had a medical condition that made you dependent on others for all of your care?

• What sort of mental, physical or social abilities are important for you to enjoy living?

• Do you want to receive every treatment your caregivers recommend?

Can I change my Living Will? When does it become effective? Does it ever expire?
You can change your mind at any time about either aspects of your treatment or who you want to act as your surrogate. The forms become effective when you sign them in the presence of appropriate witnesses. They remain in effect throughout your life until you change or revoke them. Once you have a Living Will created , it is good practice to review it annually to make sure it still reflects your wishes and the information about your surrogate is still accurate.

Do I need a lawyer to fill out the forms? Must my signature be notarized?
In Florida, you don’t need a lawyer or a notary. All you need is two witnesses to sign your Living Will. If you live part-time in another state, check for that state’s requirements.

Where should I keep my Living Will?
Keep the original for yourself and give copies to your surrogate, alternate surrogate if you designate one, your doctors, lawyer, clergy and anyone else you want to know your wishes. Don’t lock the original in a place others can’t get to. Make sure your loved ones know where it is. It is also helpful to keep a list of those who have a copy of your Living Will with your copy so if you make any changes, you’ll know who needs to get the updated version.

Where can I get a free Living Will Kit?
Call Avow Hospice at 239-430-3473 or send an email message to kpitts@avowhospice.org. You can also visit www.avowhospice.org; type “Living Will” in the search box in the upper right corner and you’ll be taken to a page where you can print the kit.

Avow Hospice understands that it’s not easy to think about your own passing or that of someone you love. We’re here 24/7 to help you review care alternatives, fill out your Living Will, get help for someone who’s sick or just talk about later-years planning. We provide hospice care for Collier County residents and grief support for anyone in SW Florida who needs our help. Call us any time at (239) 261-4404 or visit www.avowhospice.org.

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