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Virginia Living Will Attorneys
An important document for people to have when planning their estates is a living will, but its name creates confusion between it and a last will and testament. At the Hampton Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., a Virginia living will attorney has the knowledge and experience to answer the question, “What is a Virginia living will?” and to offer guidance about making health care and end-of-life decisions.
What Is a Virginia Living Will?
Living wills are authorized by the Virginia Health Care Decisions Act. They are not the same as a last will and testament used to distribute the assets and property of a person’s estate after death. Living wills offer a method for individuals to express their preferences about the medical care they receive or decline in the event they are unable to do so because of a serious illness or injury.
The Health Care Decisions Act includes Chesapeake living wills as Virginia advanced medical directives. Individuals may include their wishes regarding their care and treatment, including:
- Drugs and medications
- Life-prolonging procedures, including artificial respiration, nutrition and hydration
- Blood transfusions
- Nursing home and assisted living preferences
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Mental health and psychiatric care
People generally associate living wills with end of life decisions, such artificial life support, but advanced medical directive lawyers point to the appointment of an agent to make health care decisions as another important feature of them.
Elements of a Living Will
Any mentally competent person who is at least 18 years of age can make a living will. Virginia advanced medical directives are legally binding documents doctors may rely upon as the preferences of an individual concerning medical care and treatment. The document must meet the following criteria to qualify as a living will in Norfolk:
- It must be in writing
- The person making it must be at least 18 years of age.
- The person must be competent at the time the living will is signed.
- It must be signed in the presence of two witnesses.
- The witnesses must be at least 18 years of age and must sign the living will.
- Employees of the treating physician or of a health care facility or hospital may be witnesses.
A living will or an advanced health care directive made under the laws of another state will be enforced in Virginia if it was valid in the state in which it was made. The best way to find out about the validity of an existing living will is to have it reviewed by a Virginia living will attorney.
If a Hampton Roads resident is diagnosed with a terminal condition, the person can make a legally binding oral living will. An oral living will can express the person’s treatment preferences and end-of-life decisions and appoint an agent to make decisions on behalf of the patient.
Oral living wills must be made in the presence of the patient’s doctor and two witnesses. The witnesses must meet the same eligibility standards as for a written living will.
Avoiding family conflicts by appointing an agent to make health care decisions
Virginia advanced medical directives may include the appointment of a person to make decisions about health care for a person who is unable to make them because of a physical or mental condition. The agent authorized to make decisions must be an adult.
When choosing the person to be named as the agent, it is essential that it be someone capable of making such difficult and important decisions. People should choose an agent they are confident will carry out their wishes as expressed in the living will. This means the person must have the ability to weigh all treatment options presented by doctors and make a choice consistent with the wishes and in the best interest of the patient, including making decisions that could end the person’s life.
Appointment of an agent avoids leaving family members to argue about which one of them should make health care decisions. It also avoids bickering over the type of care and treatment. It ensures the patient that the wishes reflected in the living will are followed.
Making Changes to a Living Will
Living wills can be changed and updated to represent the individual’s most current preferences. Only the person who made the living will has the authority to make changes to it or to revoke it.
Revocation can be accomplished by the maker of the living will doing any of the following:
- Physically destroying the document
- Signing a written revocation
- Oral communicating revocation to the treating physician
Unless an advanced medical directive is revoked by the patient, health care providers who provide treatment according to the patient’s expressed wishes are released from liability as long as they act in good faith. There may be circumstances under which a patient’s expressed wishes conflict with a physician’s medical judgment or ethics. A doctor may decline to treat the patient as long as the person’s care is transferred to another health care provider.
The Importance of Using Advanced Medical Directive Lawyers
Advanced medical directives offer people the opportunity to take charge of the medical care and mental health treatment they receive by making their wishes known to their physicians and other health care providers. Advanced medical directive lawyers ensure the documents comply with the law, so people have peace of mind knowing they have taken a burden off the shoulders of their family members and loved ones.
Lawyers knowledgeable about the Virginia Health Care Decisions Act can also ensure that notification of the existence of an advanced directive is made to health care providers by registering a copy of the document with registry set up by the commonwealth. This makes the document available to doctors and the individual’s appointed agent.
A Virginia Beach Living Will Lawyer Can Help
At The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., a Virginia living will attorney makes it possible for people to ensure their end-of-life preferences and other health care choices are honored if they are unable to communicate them to their physicians. Find out more by calling (757) 896-0868 to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation with a lawyer.