Living Wills - Advance Decisions
Planning for your future so you can enjoy today
A Living Will (also known as an Advance Decision) is a legal document that sets out what future medical treatment you want to refuse in case you lose the capacity to express your wishes when the time comes.
Life has a tendency to be unpredictable and unfortunately, we cannot know exactly where we will be in 5, 10, 20 years or more. Illnesses such as dementia, conditions such as stroke, and brain injuries are all reasons why you may find it difficult to make decisions in the future. Although it feels unpleasant to consider the possibility of your independence shrinking, making plans now could save your family from having to make heart-breaking decisions on your behalf later on.
Our skilled lifetime planning solicitors can help you put in place an Advance Decision that clearly sets out your medical treatment wishes. Whether you have been diagnosed with an illness, you are approaching old age, or you are simply planning for every possibility, we will approach your case with sensitivity, compassion and dedication so you can live in comfort, knowing that the future is taken care of.
We are members of STEP (the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners), an organisation of legal professionals with specific expertise in lifetime planning and succession matters. This means that you can trust our advice to be sound and reliable no matter how complex your personal circumstances are.
Get in touch with our Living Will solicitors in West Yorkshire
Our Living Will / Advance Decision writing expertise
Our expertise lies in making sure every future medical treatment possibility is accounted for and carefully drawing up your Advance Decision on your behalf. With years of practical experience under our belts, we understand the concerns you might be feeling about making decisions for years in the future. We will talk you through your options and the implications of your choices so that you can make an informed decision about the final wording of your legal document.
We approach all cases tactfully with the respect they deserve, particularly if discussing serious issues such as life sustaining treatment. As circumstances change over time, we also regularly help individuals update their Advance Decisions to reflect their wishes.
Living Will / Advance Decision FAQs
What is a Living Will / Advance Decision?
A Living Will, or Advance Decision, is a legal document that sets out your wishes regarding medical treatment in case you lack the mental capacity to refuse treatment yourself in the future when needed.
Reasons you may lack mental capacity at some point include:
- An illness such as Alzheimer’s Disease
- A condition such as a stroke
- A brain injury
Advance Decisions can set out your wishes about things like:
- Certain listed medical treatments you want to refuse and in what circumstances
- Whether you want to refuse life sustaining treatment
- Circumstances in which you would not want to be resuscitated
Why make an Advance Decision?
Like other lifetime planning matters such as making a Will, it is a common misconception that you only need to make an Advance Decision if you are elderly. However, life does not discriminate and any person of any age could benefit from making an Advance Decision. For example, in case you have an accident that temporarily leaves you unconscious.
Reasons you may want to make an Advance Decision include:
- You have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness and you are starting to think about your ongoing care and issues that might arise later down the line
- You have strong beliefs about the types of treatment you do and do not want, such as blood transfusions or tube feeding
- You want to save your loved ones from having to make emotionally challenging decisions on your behalf, such as whether to withdraw life sustaining treatment
How do I make a Living Will?
Your Living Will or Advance Decision should fulfil certain legal requirements to be valid. We will ensure that these requirements are followed so you can focus on the content. To make an Advance Decision, you need to:
- Decide what medical treatment you want and do not want to consent to and in what circumstances
- Discuss your wishes with your family, close friends and anyone who is involved with your care
- Get your Advance Decision signed and dated in the presence of a witness
- Get your witness to sign the document
- Give a signed and witnessed copy of your Advance Decision to your GP, care providers and anyone else close to you
Who can witness an Advance Decision?
It is recommended that you have at least two witnesses. They must be a ‘competent’ adult over 18 years old. Typically, it is best practice to make sure your witnesses are not a relative, partner, anyone who might inherit from you after you die, or your Attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney.
When should an Advance Decision be reviewed?
It is a good idea to review your Advance Decision every few years and whenever there is a change in your circumstances. Even if your wishes do not change, medical professionals are more likely to trust that a recent Advance Decision accurately reflects your wishes as opposed to a document that is many years old. If they suspect that your Advance Decision is out of date and does not reflect your wishes, they may decide not to follow it.
What is mental capacity?
Mental capacity means the ability to make your own decisions, from small things such as what to eat for breakfast to significant decisions such as whether to buy or sell your home.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) sets out the law on mental capacity. Under the Act, someone who lacks capacity cannot:
- Understand information about a particular decision
- Retain that information long enough to make a decision
- Weigh up information to make a decision
- Communicate their decision, either verbally or through some other means such as sign language
Mental capacity can be temporary (for example, someone who is unconscious lacks mental capacity but may regain capacity when they wake up) or permanent.
What decisions does the MCA cover?
The MCA can cover any kind of decision. It can cover day-to-day decisions about things like:
- What to buy during the weekly shop
- What to wear that morning
- What social activities to take part in
It can also cover serious, life-changing decisions such as:
- Whether to move into a care home
- Whether to have surgery
- To make a Will
Just because a person can make decisions about things like what to wear, does not mean they have the capacity make decisions about their medical treatment. Mental capacity must be assessed individually for each particular decision.
What are the 5 principles of the MCA?
When assessing capacity under the MCA, the assessor must bear in mind 5 key principles:
- A person is always assumed to have capacity unless proved otherwise
- A person should always be helped to make a decision before they are declared incapacitated
- Just because a decision is unwise, does not mean a person lacks capacity
- A person’s best interests should be at the heart of every decision made on their behalf
- Before making a decision, always ensure there is not a less restrictive way to achieve the required outcome
Who can carry out capacity assessments?
When it comes to applying an Advance Decision, it is usually medical professionals who will undertake a mental capacity assessment.
An Attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney or a Court of Protection appointed Deputy can also make decisions on your behalf. However, if an Advance Decision is in place, your Attorney or Deputy must comply with your wishes.
Why choose Thornton Jones’ Living Will solicitors in Wakefield, Ossett & Garforth?
We have been supporting individuals and families across West Yorkshire in lifetime planning matters for many years. Our goal is to help people put in place the right legal documents now so they can continue to enjoy their life without having to worry about the future.
We pride ourselves on our supportive service and we are known for our ability to provide a safe, comfortable environment that makes discussing such personal matters easier. We work particularly hard to tailor our services to meet the specific legal needs of older clients who may feel daunted by the idea of speaking to a solicitor.
We are members of STEP (the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners) in recognition of our skills and experience in this area.
We are also members of the Law Society Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme accreditation for our expertise in private client matters.
Thornton Jones is independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).