Living Wills and POLSTs — Defining your End of Life Care Decisions

For many people, thinking about one’s end of life care decisions is a painful and difficult process. The traditional approach to addressing these issues has been to execute a Living Will. Unfortunately, the standard Living Will may not provide sufficient instruction in all situations. A Living Will, sometimes also known as an Advance Directive, essentially allows you to specify whether or not measures should be taken to extend your life artificially. For example, you can designate whether you would like to placed on a ventilator or feeding tube. You can also appoint an enforcer to carry out your wishes.

Unfortunately, the standard Living Will may not provide sufficiently detailed instructions for care givers in all situations. To assist you and health care professionals tasked with carrying out your last wishes, most states have created and implemented a new planning document known as Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (“Polst”). Filled out and executed by your physician, the Polst form contains specific care instructions to be followed by health care providers. To quote the below-linked to New York Times article, “[t]he form summarizes a doctor’s specifications for the use of specific treatments like breathing machines, chest compressions and electric shocks to the heart. It is not open to negotiation or pondering.” As the below-linked to article points out, Polst forms are not for everyone but rather for those individuals who are frail and elderly or terminally ill.

Executing a Living Will and/or a Polst form is an important step in formulating an effective estate plan. If you have questions about either form, where to obtain them, or what other steps you might take, read the below article or contact the Roark Law Firm.

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