A living will isn’t the same thing as a standard will stating how want your possessions distributed when you pass on. A living will states your wishes regarding medical treatments, including life-support, when you’re unable to tell your doctors what you want. A living will can hopefully stop a family dispute over what to do with you should you go into a coma, avoiding what happened in Terri Schiavo’s case.
Sometimes planning for incapacity legal documents can be confusing because the names are often used interchangeably, including living will, advanced health care directive, and health care power of attorney. There are also power of attorneys for financial matters, such as paying the bills for an incapacitated person. In Mississippi, an “individual instruction” is like a living will, it’s directions about healthcare decisions for an individual. A “power of attorney for health care” is the agent who’s designated to make healthcare decisions for the individual who grants them that power. Finally, an “advance health-care directive" is either an individual instruction or a power of attorney for health care or both.
The following chart outlines the main living will laws in Mississippi.
||Mississippi Code Title 41, Chapter 41, Sections 201 to 229: Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act
|Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act
||Mississippi is one of several states that have enacted the Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act created by the Uniform Law Commission in 1993. This act regulates how the creation or revocation of living wills and how they are treated by healthcare professionals in Mississippi.
|Specific Powers, Life-Prolonging Acts
||An individual can authorize in his or her living will the withdrawal of life-sustaining mechanisms defined as stopping the use of extraordinary techniques and applications, including mechanical devices that prolong life through artificial means, such as artificial hydration and feeding.
|Legal Requirements for Valid Living Will
||The requirements for a valid “individual instruction” or living will are that an adult gives it, either orally or in writing, and it can take effect only if a specific condition arises.
However, to create an advanced health care directive with a power of attorney, it must be:
- Created by an adult or emancipated minor
- In writing
- Signed by the “principal” or creator of the living will
- Signed by two adult witnesses, at least one of whom isn’t related to principal OR acknowledged by a notary public
Also, a copy of the written advance health care directive, or its revocation, has the same effect as the original.
|Revocation of Living Will
||A living will is revocable at any time and in any manner that communicates an intent to revoke. Also, a later advance health care directive that conflicts with a prior one will revoke the prior one.
|Validity of Out-of-State Living Wills
||Living wills created in other states are valid, as long as they comply with the requirements of these laws.
|If Physician Unwilling to Follow Durable Power of Attorney
||A doctor must promptly inform a patient (or his or her healthcare agent), if he or she is unable to follow the directives. The doctor must provide continuing care until the patient transfer can happen, and must also make all reasonable efforts to assist in the transfer.
|Immunity for Attending Physician
||A doctor acting in good faith and following these laws, who causes the withdrawal of life-sustaining mechanisms isn’t guilty of a criminal offense, or subject to civil liability or professional discipline.
Even though talking about your own death can be uncomfortable, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for the sake of your loved ones. If you’ve decided it’s time to get your estate plan in order, you should consider enlisting the help of an experienced Mississippi estate planning lawyer. A lawyer can help you create a living will, as well as explain and draft any other estate planning documents you may need, including a will, trust, or financial or healthcare power of attorney.
Note: State laws are updated constantly, so it’s important to contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify these estate planning laws.
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