Decoding Living Wills: A Vital Aspect of End-of-Life Planning by Funera Sydney
Everyone holds the right to shape their healthcare decisions. However, unforeseen circumstances, like an injury or illness, might render you incapable of making those decisions independently. If you're engaged in estate planning and drafting a Last Will & Testament, it's prudent to include a Living Will in your considerations. This serves as a protective measure in case you are unable to make decisions about your health later on.
A living will, often referred to as an advance care directive, health direction, or a similar term, encompasses your needs, values, preferences for future care, and details of a substitute decision-maker. When appropriately prepared and executed, this legal document takes precedence over other estate-related papers.
A living will, formally known as an advance care directive, acts as a detailed version of your advance care plan. It delineates your future care preferences, encompassing beliefs, values, and goals. While advance directives vary among states and territories, they articulate an individual's desires for medical treatment when they cannot provide consent. These directives also empower you to formally appoint a substitute decision-maker if you lose the capacity to decide for yourself.
Incorporating a living will or advance directive is a crucial facet of your end-of-life care planning. The unpredictability of future health scenarios necessitates outlining your health and medical preferences while of sound mind. This assurance ensures that your wishes will be upheld if decision-making becomes an impossibility later on.
Medical practitioners require your consent for medical treatment. Yet, an illness or injury might strip you of decision-making capacity, leaving your loved ones in a challenging position. An advance directive bridges this gap by providing legally binding instructions about your future medical treatment preferences, whether consensual or refusal.
A living will allows you to express broader preferences and values for end-of-life and future medical treatment, such as defining 'living well,' specifying desired treatments, or outlining preferences related to spiritual care or cultural beliefs.
You can incorporate a values directive to guide your decision-maker (e.g., "Quality of life is paramount") and/or an instructional directive as a legally binding statement regarding specific future medical treatments (e.g., "I do not wish to be resuscitated").
A living will or advance directive can include:
- Designation of your substitute decision-maker.
- Articulation of what is crucial to you, including values and preferred outcomes.
- Stipulation of the treatments and care you would like or refuse in the case of a life-threatening illness or injury.
Creating an advance care directive requires decision-making capacity, and you don't necessarily need a lawyer for a valid directive. Forms and requirements for these directives, along with appointing substitute decision-makers, vary among states and territories. Download the forms for your region through the provided links.
After crafting your advance directive, sign and date it. Encourage your substitute decision-maker and doctor to do the same. Distribute copies to your family, substitute decision-maker, hospital, and doctor. Safeguard the original for future needs and consider uploading it to your My Health Record.
Regularly review your advance directive, ideally every two years or when there are changes in your personal or medical circumstances. A valid advance directive is generally signed by a person with decision-making capacity and an eligible witness, with the directions often valid in other parts of Australia.
If you're relocating permanently to another state or territory, updating your documentation is advisable.
LIVING WILLS – SOUTH AUSTRALIA
In South Australia, you can appoint a Substitute Decision-Maker through an Advance Care Directive. The form requires the signature of an independent authorised witness, like a Justice of the Peace, lawyer, doctor, nurse, pharmacist, teacher, or public servant (with more than five years of service). Download the Advance Care Directive Form (SA).
In Victoria, an Appointment of Medical Decision Maker allows you to formally appoint someone for medical matters. This document must be witnessed by two independent adults, including an authorised witness like a Justice of the Peace, lawyer, doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or teacher. Create an Advance Care Directive alongside it for a detailed outline of your medical values and preferences. Both documents should be witnessed by two independent adults, with one being a registered medical practitioner. More information and forms are available here.
In New South Wales, the living will is referred to as an Advance Care Directive. It can be a simple written document without witness and still be legally enforceable. However, a signed Advance Care Directive is the recommended way to ensure your wishes are recorded. Learn more about Making an Advance Care Directive (NSW).
Queensland terms its living will as an Advance Health Directive. The form must be completed by a doctor (Section 5) and witnessed by someone at least 21 years old, such as a Justice of the Peace, commissioner for declarations, lawyer, or notary public. Download the Advance Health Directive (QLD).
In Western Australia, a living will is called an Advance Health Directive, impacting future medical treatment, life-sustaining measures, and palliative care. For legal validity, it must be witnessed by an authorised person, with a statement confirming prior legal or medical advice. Download the Advance Health Directive (WA).
In the ACT, it is referred to as a Health Direction and must be signed by two witnesses in each other's presence and the person making the direction. Download the Health Direction form (ACT).
Tasmania designates it as an Advance Care Directive for Care at the End of Life, requiring a witness over 18 who is unrelated and not a known beneficiary. Download the Advance Care Directive (TAS).
In the Northern Territory, it's known as an Advance Personal Plan. Validity demands a signature by an authorised witness, including commissioners for oaths, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, accountants, social workers, or school principals. Download the Advance Personal Plan (NT).
Much like other estate planning documents, a living will is a crucial legal instrument. It serves to communicate your end-of-life wishes, especially concerning medical decisions, when you might be unable to express them yourself. Ensure these documents are current and securely stored. Keep a copy in a safe place, share another with your appointed decision-maker, a trusted family member, or lawyer, and continue living life on your terms!
Navigating end-of-life decisions can be challenging, but Funera Sydney is here to support you. Whether you're considering a living will or need assistance with other funeral arrangements, our compassionate team is ready to guide you. Feel free to reach out to us at www.funera.sydney/contact-us or through our dedicated phone lines:
- Sydney Main: (02) 9954 6655
- Sydney: (02) 9954 6655
- Newcastle: (02) 4955 1110
- Wollongong: (02) 4243 8755
Funera Sydney, providing caring assistance when it matters most.