A requirement of any good estate plan includes creating a living will, also known as an advance directive or health care directive. Unlike a traditional will or trust that bequeaths assets to beneficiaries, a living will is a legal document sets out your wishes for health care in the event you are incapacitated and cannot do so yourself. This includes circumstances under which you may want life-sustaining treatment and circumstances under which you may not.
Nevada statute sets out the requirements of a living will and what it can accomplish. A valid and thorough living will has the following features:
- It was created when you were at least 18 years old
- It empowers another person to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated, and sets out any health care preferences you may have
- It is signed by you or on your behalf
- There were two witnesses at the signing
You can change or revoke a living will at any time. If a medical provider cannot ethically follow the wishes stated in the living will, he or she must transfer you into the care of a medical provider who can follow the stated wishes as soon as possible.
Because circumstances change and it is difficult to account for all possibilities regarding health care, often the most important task is picking the health care agent – i.e., the person who makes medical decisions on your behalf. When deciding who that person should be, consider:
- Will the agent be able to understand important medical procedures and the risks and likely outcomes involved?
- Will the person be able to make objective decisions about your health care based on your wishes, and not on emotions, stress or pressure from others?
- Will the person keep your best interests and desires in mind when making health care decisions for you?
Every adult should have a living will. However, it is generally best to have a living will as part of a comprehensive estate plan. If you currently do not have a living will, contact an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your estate planning needs and to ensure the health care you receive is performed with your preferences in mind.