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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is a fact that many avoid thinking about, but unexpected illnesses and accidents happen to people every day. A living will is a type of advance medical directive that identifies the types of medical care you do and do not want if you cannot speak for yourself due to a major illness or injury. Through a living will, you decide in advance whether you want treatments such as dialysis, artificial ventilation, or a feeding tube to be used if you are incapacitated. Not only does a living will put you in charge of your future medical care, it also saves your loved ones the burdensome task of making important medical decisions on your behalf. If you are considering using a living will to specify your future medical wishes, you may be wondering, “When does a living will take effect?”

Determining When a Person Is Unable to Articulate Medical Wishes

A living will is used when a person has a terminal condition and is unable to express his or her wishes about death-delaying procedures. A terminal condition is typically defined as a medical condition that is incurable and will result in imminent death. The Illinois Living Will Act regulates the rules regarding living wills. In a living will, you will give a declaration explaining directions for medical care should you be unable to express these directions yourself. The declaration reads in part, “In the absence of my ability to give directions...it is my intention that this declaration shall be honored… as the final expression of my legal right to refuse medical treatment.”

A living will goes into effect when your physician decides that you can no longer express your own healthcare decisions and certifies this in writing. To make this determination, doctors typically consider whether the patient can:

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Arlington Heights estate planning attorneysWhile many people assume estate planning only involves drafting a will or other estate planning document which dictates how assets are distributed upon an individual’s death, this is only one of many types of estate planning instruments which can benefit you. An advance directive, also referred to as a living will, medical directive, or advance decision, is a type of legal document which specifies how decisions should be made on behalf of an individual who is incapacitated by illness or injury. Read on to learn about how incapacity is defined for the purposes of these types of decisions in Illinois.

An Incapacitating Accident or Illness Can Happen to Anybody

If you are like most people, you have probably not given a lot of thought as to what would happen if you became unable to speak for yourself. Although we often think of incapacitation as something that happens to elderly people or those with Alzheimer’s Disease, the truth is that people of all ages can become incapacitated. For example, if you are in a serious car accident, you could suffer a head injury which leaves you in a coma. Who would make medical decisions on your behalf if this happened? Would you wish to be kept alive via artificial life support if there was little chance of recovery? These are the types of questions which can be addressed through an advance directive.

When Do Advanced Directives Take Effect?

There is not a specific set of criteria which is always used to determine when a person is incapacitated in Illinois. The situation will vary significantly based on the unique circumstances of the sick or injured person and his or her loved ones. If you are unable to speak for yourself and a loved one has petitioned the court to become your legal guardian, a judge will decide whether or not you are disabled to the point that you require a guardian. The Illinois Probate Act states that a disabled person is one who:

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