The first shocking truth is this: a Living Will is not a Will at all. A Will is a document that, when approved by the probate court, determines how and to whom your “stuff” is distributed to when you pass away. A Living Will is a document that instructs physicians and others to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment when the patient’s death is certain. It is called a “living” will simply because the declaration is made by a person when he or she is still alive and able to make medical decisions.
The second, and bigger, shocking truth is this: Living Wills have no explicit legal support in Michigan. That’s right, a Living Will is not a “legal document” in Michigan and is not required to be followed. Unlike many states, Michigan has no legislation and there are no cases (that I can find) specifically authorizing living wills or requiring that they be followed. Surprised? Quite honestly, I was too when I first found out.
So what can you do if you want to express your wishes as to end-of-life decisions? Michigan does have a Durable Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Statute that allows you to designate who you want making healthcare decisions if you are unable to participate in your healthcare decisions. I suggest including living will-like provisions in your patient advocate designation as the surest way to have them recognized. If you absolutely want a document titled “living will,” then make sure to have a patient advocate designation as well and explicitly incorporate the living will by reference in your patient advocate designation.
Choosing someone to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable is one of the most important decisions you can make. Because of how important this decision is, why wouldn’t you discuss your wishes and options with an attorney who specializes in estate planning? Take the step of turning your wishes into directives by calling us at 616-827-7596 or contacting us here.
Michael Lichterman is an estate planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™. This goes beyond merely planning for finances – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you. He focuses on planning for the “experienced” generation, the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, and family owned business succession – and he is privileged to do so from a Christian perspective. He takes the “counselor” part of attorney and counselor at law very seriously, and enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients – many of which have become great friends.