Living will to make it easier for terminally-ill patients
The Supreme Court recently said people have the right to die with dignity. It recognised patients’ right to refuse treatment when there is no chance of survival by drafting a living will, specifying that they should not be put on life support if in coma, incapacitated or vegetative state.
While a regular ‘will’ that distributes assets is often considered the backbone of a complete estate plan, a living will is essential in spelling out your end-of-life decisions. It is a document prescribing a person's wishes regarding the medical treatment he would want in the event he is unable to share his decision as regards his treatment, with the doctor,” says Anuradha Shah, chief executive officer, Warmond Trustees & Executors. A living will allows your family and physicians to be assured that your personal choices are being respected.
Just like a regular will, a person making a living will needs to be in a sound mind, capable of conveying his decisions. The living will should be made voluntarily, not be forced or made under the influence of someone else. “The procedure mostly is the same as the regular ‘will’ used to bequeath assets. We tell clients to include living will when writing the regular one,” says Sandeep Nerlekar, founder and chief executive officer, Terentia Consultancy.
While writing the living will, the individual needs to mention that he understands the consequences of his decisions. Then he needs to specify the circumstances under which he would like the life support to be withdrawn. To ensure that your choices are followed correctly, you will also need to appoint a person (executor) who understands what you would have wanted and take a decision on your behalf when you cannot. It means you will want to have a frank discussion with this person before you choose him. You need to check if he is comfortable with your decisions, if his religious beliefs allow him to carry out your wishes and so on. You can choose more than one person to carry out your wishes.
A living will is a legal document like regular will. An individual, therefore, needs two witnesses to sign the document. It also needs to be countersigned by the judicial magistrate of first class. It is to confirm that the will is made voluntarily. The judicial magistrate will keep a copy of the ‘will’ and forward another copy to the registry of the district court.
“A senior lawyer would charge you ~15,000-20,000 to draft the will and get it registered,” according to Rohan Mahajan, founder, LawRato.com.
If the person writing the 'living will' becomes terminally ill and it has to be put in force, the doctor treating the patient need to check with the judicial magistrate if the will submitted to him is authentic or not. Only after confirmation, the doctor can proceed with the withdrawal of life support.
A living will can also be updated. You
It should be in writing and must categorically state if the treatment needs to be withdrawn or provided
Appoint a guardian or a relative to decide on your behalf
Sign the will in the presence of two witnesses, and it should be countersigned by a First Class Judicial Magistrate
Execution can only happen after the medical board grants permission may need to do it after your circumstances change. You may have appointed your spouse to carry out your wishes, for example, but you are now divorced.
Legal experts say that it is best to make a new living will and follow the procedure. In case of more than one, the recent one will be considered final.