Important Downloads & Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is a way for an adult to tell professionals what kind of care he or she permits or rejects in case he or she loses the ability to make choices about health care. If you have one, the law requires that the directions in it be followed.
Can Anyone Prepare a Living Will?
Any adult with capacity (18 years of age and older) may execute (make) a Living Will.
What is the Best Time to Create a Living Will?
The best time to create a Living Will is when you don't need one. In other words, when you're not in the midst of a health care crisis. This will remove the burden from family members having to decide what care you would want if you are unable to make the decision and ensure that your wishes are fulfilled.
Are There Different Types of Living Wills?
In New Jersey, a "Living Will" is one type of Advance Directive. Another type of Advance Directive is a Proxy Directive. You may execute one or a combination of the two. (1) A Living Will (Instruction Directive) describes the care you want and want to refuse if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. You can identify treatments and choose to accept or refuse each kind (an example of this is a breathing machine). Instead, you can express your main values about life: you might want life sustained no matter what, or you might say when you think your life would have no value to you that you would want all life-saving care stopped. (2) A Proxy Directive is also known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. This document names one (or more) persons to speak for you when you have lost the ability to think well or make decisions. This health care representative could be a relative or friend. It cannot be your physician. It should be someone willing to make decisions for you about accepting, refusing, or withdrawing treatment if you cannot do so yourself. A good choice is a person willing to uphold your wishes. Thus, you should tell this person your values about life and treatment. (3) A Combined Directive is when you complete both an instruction and proxy directive as indicated above. You identify treatments you are willing to accept or refuse, you set goals, and you name someone to speak on your behalf. The health care representative is supposed to uphold the directions in your instructional directive.
Which One Should I Use?
You must decide which one is best for you. Usually, the combined directive (#3 above) is best and easiest for the family and physician. However, if you have no one to name as representative, you could choose the Instruction Directive alone.
Is an Advance Directive Legal?
Yes. New Jersey law authorizes an individual to make an Advance Directive of any of the three types. They must be signed and witnessed. They are recognized in all 50 states. Advance Directives written in other states should be honored in accordance with our state law.
Must I Hire an Attorney to Prepare an Living Will?
No. You may do so, but it is not necessary. Guest Services Representatives are available to assist you in writing any type that you choose. They help ensure that it is completed and properly witnessed to ensure it is valid. They also may act as a notary if you do not want other witnesses.
When is a Living Will Legal?
It is important for the documents to be prepared properly. A New Jersey statute sets out specific requirements for making one. It must be signed by you and dated, or made at your direction, in the presence of one of the following:
- Two subscribing adult witnesses (a designated proxy may not be a witness)
- A notary of the public (our Guest Services Representative is a notary)
- An attorney at law
- A person authorized to administer oaths
The person witnessing your signature is attesting that you are of sound mind and free of duress and undue influence. When all necessary signatures are completed, the form is then legally binding, if and when you are not capable of making a decision by yourself. Your request must be followed by anyone involved in your care.
Must I Consult With My Doctor Before Preparing a Living Will?
No, but it is recommended so you know how your illness or injury is likely to affect you, and so your physician is aware of your preferences. You may want to know how specific medical treatments or devices will affect you. In addition, it is always helpful for you to communicate your care preferences to your doctors.
Must I Consult With Family Members or Others (for example, Those Who are My Representative)?
Living Wills may only enforce the removal of life-sustaining treatment when you are permanently unconscious, terminally ill, or if the treatment is experimental, is likely to be ineffective or will merely prolong the dying process. Life-sustaining treatment may also be withdrawn if the patient has a serious irreversible illness or the treatment is very burdensome. The document does not permit a doctor to take pro-active steps to terminate life, but rather permits withholding of treatment. For example, a Living Will allows an individual to stop a breathing machine and provide comfort only.
When Should a Living Will be Used?
A Living Will becomes operative when you lack the ability to decide. Also, your physician and the hospital must have a copy of it and check the conditions you state must be met. It must also conform to the law. Another doctor must confirm the belief that you lack decision-making capacity when that is questionable.
Where Should I Keep My Living Will?
The Living Will does you no good if it is not available. Since it obviously comes into play when you have lost the ability to express yourself, it is important for individuals other than yourself to know where it is. Our hospital will ask you for a copy in pre-admission testing, admissions, and during your initial intake by your nurse and physician. If it is not with you at admission, either ask to create a new one with Guest Services assistance, or ask that your verbal wishes are documented until the actual document is obtained for the record. Make sure you keep your original and give copies to your proxy, family members, doctor, and close friends. It is also a good idea to carry a copy. If you are going to a hospital, bring it and give it to the people taking care of you there. You should provide a copy of the Advance Directive with each hospital visit.
Whom Should I Appoint as My Health Care Representative or Proxy?
You should choose someone who is aware of your desires and whose judgment you trust. You should discuss your Living Will with that person and make sure he/she has a copy. It is important to make sure the person you select is willing to take on the role and responsibility of honoring any wishes you have made in your Living Will.
Can I Revoke My Living Will?
Only you may revoke your Living Will. It may be revoked at any time by notifying the health care representative, doctor, nurse, other health care professional, or other reliable witness. Such notification can be written, oral, or by any other act evidencing an intent to revoke the document. Also, you may make new versions and cancel old ones.
Am I Required to Create a Living Will?
No. The statute gives you the option. No one can force you to create a Living Will. In fact, to be valid you must be free of duress and undue influence.
If a Person Has Financial Power of Attorney, Do They Also Have Medical Power of Attorney?
Not always. Naming someone as proxy for health care must be specifically stated in the power of attorney document or the proxy directive.
- How Do I Contact a Guest Services Representative for Help With Creating a Living Will?
Advanced Directive Policy
Advanced Directive Patient Education and Instruction Handout - English
Advanced Directive Patient Education and Instruction Handout - Spanish