We thought that there would be wisdom in addressing this very important, yet often neglected, issue of a Living Will. It cannot be stressed enough that, no matter what your age is, a Living Will is a vital document to ensure your wishes are carried out should something catastrophic happen to your health.
What is a Living Will? In the state of Arizona, your written directions for health care is called your Living Will. This document is a notice to your health care providers outlining how you want medical treatment to be administered, if at all, should you become unconscious or arrive to a state of being where you can no longer sustain life without the assistance of life support, i.e. iron lung, heart machine, feeding tubes, etc. Once you name a health care representative, you also have a separate document, which authorizes your representative to enforce your health care directions.
Your Living Will must be signed and dated by you and can be either “witnessed”, (the witness must also sign), or notarized. We encourage a Notary as it leaves little room for question. Be prepared to provide the notary with picture identification. Should you choose to just have your signature witnessed, he or she must not be related to you.
If you are unable to sign the document, another person may sign for you. However, you must direct this person to sign and then watch as he/she does so. It is very important to carefully read the document before you sign.
Once you name a person to supervise the carrying out of your health care wishes, you need to produce a document that gives that person the necessary authority. This document is called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Like the Living Will, this document must also be signed and witnessed or notarized. Again, if only witnessing this signature, the witness must not be related. The person serving as “Durable Power of Attorney” can be related, however, the “witness” to your signature cannot be.
Once you have accomplished these valuable tasks, be sure to attach your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care to your Living Will and make copies to distribute to 1) your physician, (if you have one), 2) the patient representative of your medical plan or HMO, 3) the person you name to supervise your health care, and 4) any other trusted friend or relative. Place your original with your other valuable papers, such as a living trust, a will, deed or life insurance policy. DO NOT place these important documents in your safety deposit box at the bank. In most cases, access to these boxes is impossible without you.
There are various computer programs you can purchase to draw up your “Living Will” and “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care”. Please know that we, at Lowmans Arizona Funeral Home, have a program and, if you would like for us to generate this paperwork for you, we would be happy to assist you. There is no charge. We will need your name and telephone number so Bill can call you back when he is in front of the system, ask you the appropriate questions, print it up and you can pick up the paperwork at the funeral home, take it to a notary and proceed with getting the required number of copies and distributing them to the people listed above. Please keep in mind that neither Bill or I are an attorney or a notary. We are just, like you, much more aware of the importance of a Living Will, because of the Terry Schiable tragedy.
We hope that the information provided encourages you to take some preventative measures in ensuring your wishes are honored. As always, Bill and Ingried Lowman are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (602) 276-3601, toll free (877) 276-1889, fax (602) 276-1889.