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3 Things to Know About a Living Will – Part 2

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney

It’s not uncommon that I will have an estate planning client in my office asking me questions about estate planning. When this occurs almost always the question comes up about what the differences are between a living will and a last will and testament. I’ve come to find that most people really don’t understand what a living will is, or what it can’t do for them. Here are three things you should know about a living will as part of your estate planning.


The first thing you should know is that a living will is a specialized estate planning document that is far different than the other state planning documents that you can get. A last will and testament is the document that you used to give away your property to someone else. However, a living Will does something entirely different.

A living will is used as a way for you to give instructions to your Physicians and Healthcare Providers about your end of life decisions. For example, imagine that you were in a severe car accident and that you are in the hospital on machines which are keeping you alive at a time when you are unconscious. Under these circumstances you cannot communicate your medical decisions to your health care providers.  If you do not have a living will then the doctors have no choice but to turn to your family and ask them what they would like to do. Your family then has the burden of making decisions about whether to continue providing Health Care to you or whether they should simply turn the machines off. This is a huge burden to place on your loved ones.

With a living will, you’ve already provided these instructions to your physicians, and you’ve taken the burden of making these decisions off of the shoulders of your loved ones. Really, what it comes down to, is that you have the ability right now while you are able to think about it, to decide what instructions to give to your health care providers. Your health care providers will not honor your decisions as set forth in your living will it will follow the instructions that you have left.


The second thing you should know is what it costs to get a living will completed for yourself. A living will is typically a fairly simple document. In Idaho a living will is almost always connected with a durable power of attorney for healthcare.Idaho Law currently requires that these two documents be together in one document so that your Physicians have all the instructions in one place concerning your decisions about your health care. Also, typically, a living will is only one part of the estate planning documents that you receive when you complete your estate planning.

If a person is adamant that they want to get nothing but a living will done for their estate planning, the cost for doing so usually are quite low.


The final thing you should know about a living will is what you do with it once you have it. There are certain things you should do with a living will. I often instruct my clients to take their living will with them to the doctor they regularly see so that a copy or scan can be made and put in your medical records. Also, anytime you enter a hospital for any type of test or procedure, the hospital employees will always ask whether you have a living will. It is a good idea to take a copy with you so that it can be scanned and put into your medical records at the hospital. Really any health care providers that you see or plan to see should have a copy of your living will.

When your medical and Healthcare Providers have a copy of your living will there is no need for them to ask your family whether one exists. This saves time and effort concerning trying to find a living will and providing a copy to your health care providers if there is in fact some sort of an ongoing emergency in your health care. This that gives the medical and Healthcare Providers the ability to understand specifically what you were instructions and wishes are.

If you have questions about completing a living will for yourself, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your Idaho Estate Planning questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues.


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