Pittsburgh Living Wills Attorney

When creating an estate plan, an important step is to appoint another person to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated in a living will. You can also include specific Instructions as to what types of medical treatment you would or would not like to receive to keep you alive.

At Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace LLP, we understand that end-of-life decisions can be difficult. Our compassionate estate planning attorneys will listen to your needs and concerns. We can help you understand the different strategies available to you to address how medical decisions will be made for you if you can no longer communicate on your own. We will carefully answer any questions while guiding you through creating a living will.

Living Wills Are Legally Enforceable in Pennslyvania

A Pennsylvania living will is a legally enforceable document expressing a person’s healthcare treatment preferences. In Pennsylvania, advanced healthcare directives can consist of a living will, a healthcare power of attorney, or a written and signed combination of both documents.

A person can state what type of medical care he or she would or would not like to have if he or she becomes incompetent and can’t communicate with doctors. Unlike in some other states, in Pennsylvania, a living will and a healthcare power attorney are generally included in the same legal document. For your living will to be valid in Pennsylvania, you must be sound when signing the document. You should give a copy to all of your doctors and specialists.

When Does a Living Will Become Effective?

The provisions in a living will only become enforceable once and when a doctor determines that a person is in a state of permanent unconsciousness or has a terminal condition. After one doctor determines that these conditions have been met, another doctor must confirm the first doctor’s assessment.  

At that point, all your doctors are legally required to follow the decisions stated in your living will. In other words, you will still be able to make all of your own medical decisions until you are unable to communicate them because of your medical condition. It is possible to revoke the declarations made in a living will. 

However, you must do so when you are of sound mind and can make and communicate decisions. If you revoke your living will, it’s important that you provide your doctors and your healthcare agent with your current living will and destroy copies of your previous living will.

The Benefits of Creating a Living Will

Conflict can arise when a patient does not have a living will and is unable to communicate medical decisions. Loved ones may need to go to court to obtain the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. If your loved one doesn’t know what type of medical treatment you would or would not like to receive, it will place a significant burden on your loved ones. 

They may be worried that they will choose medical care that you wouldn’t have chosen yourself. Family members may have differing views on what type of treatment you would or would not like to receive. Taking the time to create a living will in advance will help you ensure your preferences are upheld. It will also remove potential conflict and strain on your loved ones.

Appointing a Healthcare Agent in Your Living Will

Appointing a healthcare agent is an important component of your living will. Most people include a primary healthcare agent and an alternative. You should choose a person who is trustworthy and responsible to act as your agent. Many people discuss the appointment of a healthcare agent with the potential agent to make sure they are willing and able to fulfill their duties as an agent. Circumstances may change, and the person you selected may be unable to act as your agent. In that case, the alternate agent would make medical decisions on your behalf. 

Helping Clients Create Living Wills that Reflect Their Preferences

When you create a living will, you may feel overwhelmed by all the decisions you’ll need to make before a medical emergency. Some individuals prefer to avoid receiving invasive life-sustaining or saving interventions at the end of their lives. Others would like to receive all available life-saving treatments. It’s important to remember that this is your living will, and it should fully reflect your individual preferences. You can include many different types of medical Treatments in your living will. 

Ultimately, it’s your decision about what type of medical care you want to accept or deny. In your living will, you can indicate your intent regarding initiating, sustaining, withholding, or withdrawing various life-sustaining medical treatments.  

Pennsylvania provides a statutory legal form that includes different types of medical treatment a person can opt to receive or not receive. You aren’t required to use the statutory form when you create a living will. An attorney can help ensure you have addressed all the medical decisions you could face in an end-of-life situation. Some of the examples of life-sustaining care that you may choose to receive or not receive include the following:

  • Cardiac resuscitation
  • Feeding tubes or IV fluids
  • Diagnostic testing 
  • Invasive procedures, including surgery
  • Antibiotics
  • Dialysis
  • Respiratory assistance, including  breathing tubes

Discuss Your Estate Plan with an Experienced Attorney in Pittsburgh

The attorneys at Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace LLP have extensive experience helping Pittsburgh area clients with various estate planning matters. Whether you need to add a living will to your existing estate plan or you’d like help with creating a comprehensive estate plan for the first time, we can help. Contact Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace LLP to schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about our comprehensive estate planning services.