It’s a sombre thought, but each year, thousands of people become incapable of managing their affairs due to illness or injury. Although we like to hope this won’t happen to us, it is important to be prepared. This can save our loved ones from further heartache and distress if the need arises for our affairs to be managed for us.

It’s clear that to have our property and financial affairs taken care of, a validly created Enduring Power of Attorney or Lasting Power of Attorney for property and finances is required. But what about your health and welfare decisions?

Since 2007 it’s possible to create a Lasting Power of Attorney that is specific to your health and welfare decisions. This document allows you to nominate one or more persons to make decisions on your behalf relating to your health and care arrangements. This can include the decision whether or not to withdraw or continue life sustaining treatment (e.g. life support).

A Living Will is different in that rather than nominate an individual to act on your behalf, you instead create a Statement to say what you would like to happen if you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for yourself. Living Wills can be divided into two categories:

  • Advance Statement
    This provides information on the level of medical treatment you would want should you become terminally ill. This can include where you would like to be cared for, details of how your religious/spiritual beliefs would affect medical treatment and general care arrangements (e.g. how you would like to receive day-to-day care). This is not legally binding but is respected by health professionals.
  • Advance Decision
    This enables you to dictate the terms of your treatment should you become unable to communicate them yourself. In this document you can be specific about the treatment you do not want to receive (e.g. life support or resuscitation) but you must be clear on the circumstances for the refusal of treatment. This document must be written and signed by you and a witness and must comply with the Mental Capacity Act for it to be legally binding.

It is recommended that you let close family, carers and health care professionals know about your Living Will or Health and Welfare LPA and how and where to find it to ensure that it is followed, should the need arise for it to be used.

For more information on Living Wills and Powers of Attorney, contact our Wills, Trusts & Estate Administration Team. We’d be happy to guide you through the process.