The thought of losing your mental capacity and ability to make decisions in later life will be distressing for many, but a living will means you can make choices about your care now.
Any advance decisions you make can be legally enforced under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. As a result, healthcare professionals must adhere to your wishes.
You may have lots of questions and concerns about living wills, the law, and how both can affect you. With this mind, please be aware that the solicitors at First4lawyers can answer any queries and ensure your wishes are respected.
What is a living will?
A living will 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.
A ‘living will’ is not actually a will and does not deal in any way with your estate.
Living wills are also known as ‘advance directives’ or ‘advance decisions’, and are legally binding in England and Wales.
Who can make a living will?
Anyone who is over the age of 18 years and has the mental ability to make a living will can do so.
What can my living will say?
A living will can be as specific or as general as you wish. You may cover all treatments and other life-prolonging measures or just specific ones. Whether you want to list treatments you would not want to receive, or you wish to state simply that you want to die of natural causes, or that all efforts should be made to keep you alive, the choice is yours.
What are the formalities for making a living will?
It can be advisable that you seek medical input before drawing up your living will. This will be proof that you have made an informed decision and that you have discussed your preferred priorities for care with a medical professional. It is also advisable to have a medical practitioner witness the directive.
If you wish to refuse life-saving treatment, then you must put this directive in writing and it must be signed and witnessed. This will make the living will legally binding. It is recommended that you follow this process regardless of whether you wish to refuse just certain treatments. For example, those could be:
- Blood transfusions.
- Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
Are there any treatments I cannot refuse in my living will?
Yes. You cannot refuse basic care or nursing needs, or treatment for a mental health condition.
Are there any treatments that I may not request in my living will?
Yes. For example, you cannot request euthanasia (which is currently illegal in the UK), or your choice of carer.
When would I need to make a living will?
You can make a living will whenever you like. Even if you aren’t directly concerned about being unable to make decisions under your own power in the future, it would be advisable to make an advance decision as soon as you can so you can be certain it’s in place.
I want to make a living will – what should I do?
If you wish to make a living will, it’s wise to seek help and advice from a solicitor who specialises in this area of law.
First4lawyers will assign a solicitor who can advise you on the best course of action to meet your personal needs, preferences and beliefs. You can either get in touch directly, or we will call you if you use the Request a Callback feature at the top of the screen, or fill out our short enquiry form.