Living Wills

Making a Living Will can help to ensure your wishes are followed if you’re ever unable to make decisions around your own health and treatment. We're here to support you.


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What is a Living Will?

A living Will – also known as an advance decision – is a statement that sets out what medical treatment you would and would not wish to receive in the event that you lose mental capacity or the ability to communicate in the future. This could be due to an illness, or a sudden accident.

A Living Will is not the same as a Last Will and Testament, and it won’t affect how your estate – including your property, investments and savings – will be handled after your death.

Why should I make a Living Will?

There are a few reasons why people choose to create a Living Will. Some of the most common include:

  • Being diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness
  • Getting older and wanting to prepare for end of life care
  • Not wanting to have their life prolonged artificially (with life support, for example)
  • Saving loved ones from having to make difficult decisions on their behalf
  • Wanting to stay in control of their own health

Whatever your reasoning for making a Living Will is, it’s important that you seek out legal support. This will help to ensure that your wishes are followed. So you’ll have the confidence of knowing things will go as you’d like them to when the time comes.

When would I need to make a Living Will?

You can make a Living Will whenever you like – as long as you’re over 18.

Most people will make a Living Will while they’re still relatively well, so that their relatives and medical professionals will know how to treat them in the future. But it is also common for people to make a Living Will just after receiving a serious diagnosis.

It’s important to remember to update your Living Will, too. Your preferences might change as time goes on, so you should make sure to review the document regularly to make sure it’s still in line with your wishes.

How detailed should a Living Will be?

A Living Will can be as specific or as general as you wish. You may decide to cover all treatments and life-prolonging measures, or just a few specific ones. This will all depend on your own individual situation and preferences.

It is worth noting, though, that you cannot use a Living Will to refuse basic comfort and care, or to request a certain treatment. It also cannot be used to request euthanasia (which is currently illegal in the UK) or a specific carer.

We would always suggest speaking to a GP who knows your medical history before writing up your Living Will. This could help you to get a better understanding of what will happen when certain treatments are refused.

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Are Living Wills legally binding?

In England and Wales, a Living Will is legally binding as long as it:

  • Applies to the situation at hand
  • Complies with the Mental Capacity Act
  • Is considered to be valid

In order to be deemed valid, your Living Will should clearly specify the treatments you’d like to refuse. You should also make it clear that you have come to each decision yourself, and that you understand the consequences.

If you wish to refuse life-saving treatment, your Living Will must be signed by you and a witness. It can help to have a doctor witness the document, as they will be able to confirm that you had mental capacity at the time of writing it.

Who should I share my Living Will with?

Writing your Living Will is the first step. You’ll also need to make sure to share it as widely as possible. We would suggest sharing your Living Will with:

  • Friends and family members
    If you’re admitted to hospital, the first person to be called will most likely be a relative or close friend. It’s important that these individuals have a copy of your Living Will, so that they can ensure your wishes are followed by medical staff.
  • Your carer (if this applies)
    If you have a carer, it’s very possible that they could be with you when you’re taken to hospital. So it’s important that they are either given a copy of your Living Will, or are told where to find it if needed.
  • Your GP surgery
    You could either make an appointment with your regular GP, or drop the document off at the reception desk. But as we’ve mentioned, speaking to a healthcare professional could help to clarify any queries or concerns you have about the terms set out in your Living Will.

What’s the difference between a Living Will and power of attorney?

A health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA) allows you to prepare for what might happen if you lose the ability to decide on your own care and treatment. So what makes it different from a Living Will?

The key difference is that a Living Will enables you to make your own decisions about specific treatments you might receive in the future. But when you put an LPA in place, you’re giving another person (your chosen attorney) the authority to make these decisions on your behalf.

Under an LPA, your attorney will also be able to make decisions about where you live and your daily routine – such as washing, eating and dressing – as well as your medical treatment.

But the most important thing to note is that both Living Wills and LPAs must only come into use if you have lost the mental capacity to make your own healthcare decisions.

I want to make a Living Will – what do I do?

If you’d like to make a Living Will, you should seek help and advice from a solicitor who specialises in this area of law.

We can help you find a legal expert who will advise you on the best course of action to meet your personal needs, preferences and beliefs.

We’re here to help, whenever you’re ready.


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