What Happens if Someone Doesn’t Follow Your Living Will?

living will

A living will is a great tool to help you maintain your control over your own body after you’ve become incapacitated. As we get older, the possibility of being permanently incapacitated or being incapacitated long-term grows. Accidents or sudden illnesses can take away our ability to control our bodies and make decisions for ourselves. A living will allows us to make decisions and set guidelines for our medical and financial decisions. But what if someone doesn’t follow your living will?

A living will isn’t a binding contract, it’s instructions. You’re likely unconscious or otherwise mentally immobilized if your living will is being used. But many don’t know how living wills are enforced and why they are obeyed. The living will attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam can help.

Can Someone Ignore or Change Your Living Will?

When it comes to your finances, your living will is set in stone. There isn’t room for debate and different instructions can not be followed unless it is so vague and lacking in detail that the probate court can’t interpret it. An attorney can help ensure that it is written in clear and concise language that specifies your wishes.

Unlike your finances, your healthcare wishes are less cut and dry. When it comes to your health, the religious and moral beliefs of several individuals can be involved. People with negative and positive feelings towards you can also get involved. People may be able to what your wishes are in your will, decide that what’s best for you is a matter of opinion, and then disagree with you. This means they can contest if only to put off your wishes being carried out or argue that it was made under pretenses.

This being said, no one can legally change what you put in your will, and they cannot ignore it. They have to react and try to fight what your will says or argue that they cannot fulfill what it asks for. There are three types of people who can and might contest your living will for different reasons – your doctor, executor, and family.

What Happens if Your Doctor Doesn’t Follow Your Living Will?

Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, which is a vow to do no harm. Now, to do no harm is incredibly vague and leaves much up to interpretation. This interpretation is what leads to some doctors refusing to do surgeries and treatments that other doctors will. This also opens up a legal can of worms for what doctors can be sued for. Many agree that sometimes harm will come to a person regardless of what they do, so they do what will reduce harm, thus not causing it.

If a doctor believes that your living will is asking them to do more harm or cause any harm, they may and can refuse to do the treatment you want. A living will cannot force a medical professional to treat you if they think they will be breaking the Hippocratic Oath.

After this, your executor, family member, or yourself if you regain autonomy, can file a lawsuit against that doctor for not abiding by your living will. They can even potentially lose their license or be investigated if it’s proven that they did not alleviate the harm done to you. If you worry about this, you can make a provision in your will, asking for a specific doctor who would complete the procedure you would prefer.

Issues like this can commonly come up in cases where people have living wills asking to be taken off life support.

What Happens if Your Executor Doesn’t Follow Your Living Will?

Your executor is the person you give your Power of Attorney to in your living will. This is the person you trust to make decisions for you when you can’t make decisions yourself. Typically, they are supposed to follow and enforce your will. If an issue comes up that the living will doesn’t cover, they must make a decision that’s as close to the will as possible or make a compromise.

Your executor can be an attorney, friend, spouse, family member, or any other loved one of legal age.

Your executor has the legal responsibility to enforce your living will, but there isn’t a criminal punishment if they don’t. If they decide to not follow your will and try to make decisions that go against it, others – such as family members and other attorneys who represent you – can sue on your behalf. This can lead to courts removing your executor from their position and assigning someone who will follow your living will.

What Happens if Your Family Doesn’t Follow Your Living Will?

Assuming the family members in question aren’t your executor, they are often questioned as to how to best handle your medical decisions. If your executor isn’t available, someone like a spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child may become your temporary executor. If they don’t want to follow your living will, either because they disagree with it or are unable to support it despite wanting to, there are numerous options for what can happen.

If it’s an issue of money, where they can’t afford to follow your living will, courts and executors are likely to allow them not to follow it. They will be expected to follow the will as close to the text as possible otherwise and find alternative solutions close to your living will.

If they disagree with your living will, they can file a lawsuit against your will, practicing medical professional, and/or executor. This will stop your wishes from going through. It’s a temporary stop, unless they can prove that your living will doesn’t accurately reflect your wishes either because you were not mentally sound when you signed it or you were not fully informed of the risks.

If they are successful and are granted your Power of Attorney, they can make the decisions for you. If you recover, you can file a lawsuit against them. To protect yourself from this possibility, our attorneys can help you make your living will as detailed and airtight as possible.

Keep Your Autonomy with Help from the Living Will Attorneys at MVSK Law

Autonomy is the ability to make decisions for ourselves. It’s what makes us individuals and what makes us human. If that’s taken away, we risk losing a lot of who we are. A living will can protect your autonomy if you become mentally indisposed.

With the help of the experienced living will attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam, we help you create an airtight living will. Contact us today.

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