There's no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic has made many of us stop and reflect on our lives and our wishes for the future. It has catapulted estate planning to the forefront of many people's minds with law firms seeing a drastic increase in the creation of Powers of Attorney and Wills from those of all ages.
Having a Power of Attorney and Will in place helps to ensure your wishes are respected and decisions carried out when you are no longer able to do so. Furthermore, planning ahead helps to prevent stressful and often costly situations for loved ones, at what is already a difficult and upsetting time.
An additional way to ensure your wishes are documented is by creating a Living Will. Also known as an advance decision or advance medical directive, a Living Will is an anticipatory document used to record views on life-sustaining medical treatment in the event you should you suffer an incurable or irreversible illness and are unable to make decisions regarding your medical treatment.
When can a Living Will be used?
A Living Will can only be used to oppose treatment, such as the refusal of continuous or invasive life sustaining treatment where there is no prospect of recovery. Additionally, the document can be used to state views on ventilation and artificial nutrition to prolong life. They cannot however be used for the purpose of requesting specific treatments or for unlawful acts such as assisted suicide or euthanasia.
A change in the law?
There have been recent discussions surrounding changes to Scotland's assisted dying laws, with MSP's stating that the debate is now at "tipping point". A change in the law could see assisted suicide and euthanasia legalised, in turn altering the way we use Living Wills and their content. Could we see Livings Wills used to request the right to end life as well as opposing treatment?
Are Living Wills legally binding?
Although Living Wills are not legally binding in Scotland, they are highly persuasive as your decisions are far more likely to be respected if they are clearly documented and your family and healthcare team are aware of them. This can help avoid a devastating situation for family, wondering if they have done the right thing and if it is what you would have wanted. It can also avoid disagreements between family members over what would be best course of action and care for you, as you have already made that decision.
Unfortunately end of life situations can happen to anyone at any age and it is therefore important to plan ahead. It can be easy to put off making such an emotional decision particularly when it seems unnecessary. However, having a Living Will in place can help to provide peace of mind to both you and your loved ones.
We're here to help
Should you wish to discuss making a Living Will, please do not hesitate to contact the Private Client team at Harper Macleod using the form below or call one of our offices on:
Elgin: 01343 542623
We have solicitors and offices across the country in Glasgow (next to Glasgow Central Station), Edinburgh (next to Haymarket Station), Inverness, Thurso, Elgin and Shetland - and working from home, ready to help in person or over the phone or on a zoom call.
We can provide the assistance you need to protect your assets and your loved ones. This will allow you to put your mind at ease, knowing everything is in hand.