What to consider when drafting a living will

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What To Consider When Drafting A Living Will

If you have a valid will, you have already taken an important step in the estate planning process. You have a legal document stating what happens to your estate after you die.

However, what happens if something happens to you that renders you incapacitated and unable to make your own medical decisions? Having a living will can help.

What exactly is a living will?

A living will is a written document that allows you to designate someone to make health and medical choices on your behalf if this situation occurs.

A living will also states your preferences on major medical decisions and what treatments you would or would not like performed to keep you alive or extend your life. Some people want every type of treatment to be used, no matter the quality of life they will have, while others may not want any treatments, or only some.

Some basic medical decisions to consider may involve:

  • Antibiotic treatment
  • CPR
  • Tube feeding
  • Ventilation

Infections may develop while you are incapacitated. Think about if you would want the infections to be treated with antibiotics, and to what level. If your heart stops beating, would you want CPR to be performed? If you can no longer eat or breathe on your own, do you want treatments that would allow these things, just to keep you alive?

End of life care

Comfort care, or end-of-life care, is another important factor to consider. If you reach a stage where there is nothing more that can be done for you, do you want to die at home if possible, or stay in a hospital?

If you want to donate organs, or donate your body to science, this information should be included in your living will, as well. Researching the requirements for organ donation in New Jersey can help, so your living will can clarify that you understand and consent to the steps in the organ donation process.

These are just a few examples of things to think about when drafting a living will. Everyone’s situation is different. Your living will is a document unique to your wishes and preferences. An experienced estate planning attorney can make sure that nothing is overlooked.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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