What Massachusetts Residents Need to Know About Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney
If you became ill or injured and were unable to speak for yourself, would your loved ones know what kind of medical treatment you want? Would your family members and doctors be legally bound to carry out your wishes?
Without valid documents directing your health care, your wishes for medical treatment may not be known or honored. In an extreme case, your family members could end up in court, arguing over what’s best for you. You can avoid outcomes like these by preparing two basic legal documents.
Living Will (Personal Wishes Statement). The document you use to spell out your preferences for medical treatment is usually called a Living Will. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts doesn't have a statute authorizing Living Wills, but it's still a good idea to make one. Federal law gives you the right to direct your own health care -- and a Living Will is an important tool for doing just that. In Massachusetts, a Living Will may sometimes be called a "Personal Wishes Statement."
Health Care Proxy. The Massachusetts document that names a trusted person to carry out your health care wishes is called a Health Care Proxy.
Rarely will you need a lawyer to prepare these documents. To learn about some situations in which you might want to consult a professional, see Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Living Will?
The following articles will help you understand what your health care documents do and how to make them:
For details about using a Living Will to specify your health care wishes, see What Can I Cover in My Living Will?
To learn how to pick the person who will be your decision maker under a Health Care Proxy, see How Do I Choose a Health Care Agent?
When you’re ready to make your health care directives, see The Best Sources for Massachusetts Health Care Forms to get the documents you need.