Anyone can potentially benefit from a living will. However, having one is especially important for aging residents of New York City. A living will, which is a type of advance health care directive, communicates an individual’s preferences regarding medical treatment in the event that he or she becomes incapable of expressing those wishes.

For individuals who have strong desires regarding the type of medical care they would like to receive — or conversely, that they would prefer withheld – living wills can be crucial. The official document ensures that if, for example, the person becomes comatose or experiences a rapid decline in mental faculties, his or her wishes have already been recorded. For example, the patient may not wish to be resuscitated or placed on life support indefinitely. Health care professionals are legally required to follow these instructions.

Without an advance healthcare directive, complications and problems often arise. Family members may disagree about which treatments are best, as grief and worry often cloud judgment. Loved ones may be unclear as to what the individual may have preferred, projecting their own beliefs and preferences instead, even unintentionally.

Another advance health care directive, called medical power of attorney allows an aging individual to appoint a trusted family member or loved one to use his or her judgment in directing medical care in cases when the living will is unclear and the patient cannot communicate. Without a formal advance health care directive, doctors are required to use their own judgment regarding medical care or to consult relatives who may be less familiar with the patient’s wishes than a friend or partner might actually be. While it may not sound pleasant to plan for a worst-case scenario, it can help prevent a lot of grief and pain for both loved ones and for the patients to have the legal documentation prepared well in advance by an experienced and knowledgeable New York City elder law attorney.

Source:, “Why Do I Need a Living Will“, Barbara Repa, Accessed on July 29, 2017