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Understanding the uses of living wills in Washington

Most Washingtonians understand the need for a will that will dispose of their assets at their death. Less well understood is the living will. Many people are aware of the term but do not understand it. In this post, the uses of living wills will be explained.

A living will is not a traditional testamentary will that disposes of the maker's assets. Instead, a living will provides direction to health care providers about prolonging the maker's life and the conditions under which life support can be withdrawn. By executing a living will, a person can make decisions about end-of-life treatment while he or she is still able to make an informed and well-considered choice.

In Washington, a living will provides instruction regarding withdrawal or withholding of any medical or surgical treatment that uses mechanical or artificial means to prolong life by providing nutrition, hydration and oxygen to artificially provide a life prolonging function. Any competent person over the age of 21 can execute living will in the presence of two witnesses who are not related to the declarant; the witnesses must also sign the document. A living will can be revoked at any time by defacing or destroying the document. The declarant's mental state is not relevant to the effectiveness of an act of revocation. Physicians must obey the directions in a living will unless they provide a written plan of treatment to the patient. The patient is then free to change physicians and to find one who will honor the living will.

Anyone who is interested in executing a living will may wish to consult an experienced estate planning attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can explain the uses of living wills, the mechanics of preparing and executing the will and how the document will affect medical treatment.

Source: FindLaw, "Washington Living Wills Laws," accessed on Sep. 25, 2017

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