A living will doesn’t determine who gets your belongings when you die, that’s done by a regular will. A living will tells your health care providers whether you want life support and to be artificially fed and hydrated, before you become incapacitated and aren’t able to let your doctors know what you want.
Planning for incapacity documents and terms are often confusing because the names are frequently used interchangeably. For example, living will, advanced health care directive, and health care power of attorney are often used together. In Nevada, the legal concept of informing your doctors of life-support treatment wishes is referred to simply as a “declaration.” This declaration is specifically about administering or not life-sustaining treatment.
Nevada Living Will Lockbox
The Nevada Secretary of State maintains a “living will lockbox” or registry where your medical providers can retrieve a copy of your advance directives (living wills, powers of attorney, and Do-Not-Resuscitate) in an emergency or illness. Once given to your health care providers, whether by a family member or through the state registry, the living will becomes a part of your medical records.
The following table outlines the main living will laws in Nevada.
||Nevada Revised Statutes Sections 449.535 to 449.690 – Uniform Act on Rights of the Terminally Ill (based on the Uniform Law Commission model act)
||The life-sustaining treatments described in a living will in Nevada are any medical procedure or intervention that, when administered to a patient, serves only to prolong the process of dying. This doesn’t include medication or procedures necessary to alleviate pain.
Artificial nutrition and hydration is considered a life sustaining treatment and must be withheld unless a different desire is expressed in writing in the living will or a health care agent has authority to provide consent. There is a separate line on the declaration form specifically about this choice.
|Legal Requirements for Valid Living Will
||The legal requirements to create a valid living will in Nevada are:
The living will can designate an agent to make decisions governing withholding or withdrawing life support. However, it’s not effective if the patient is known to be pregnant and a live birth is probable.
- Creator of document (“declarant”) is an adult at least 18 years or older
- Signed by declarant or another person at the declarant's direction
- Witnessed by two people
- Using the sample form at Nevada Revised Statutes Sections 449-610 and 449-613 or very similar
|Revocation of Living Will
||A living will is revocable at any time and in any manner by the declarant regardless of his or her mental or physical condition at the time. It’s effective upon communication to the attending physician or other health care provider.
|Validity of Out-of-State Living Wills
||An advance directive or living will executed in another state in compliance with the law of that state or Nevada law is valid.
|If Physician Unwilling to Follow Living Will
||A doctor that’s unwilling to comply with the patient’s wishes must take all reasonable steps as promptly as possible to transfer the patient to the care of another doctor.
|Immunity for Attending Physician
||The health care providers who act in accordance with a living will in Nevada aren’t subject to civil or criminal liability or professional discipline if they acted in good faith and in accordance with reasonable medical standards. Allowing a person to die naturally isn’t considered a suicide or homicide according to Nevada law.
Oddly, the hospital and health care providers aren’t liable for failure to follow a patient's directions in the living will. The doctor must “give weight” to the patient’s directions, but can consider “other factors” in determining whether the circumstances warrant following the directions.
It can be uncomfortable to think about and openly discuss our own deaths, but death is inevitable. If it’s time for you to make end-of-life plans, consider creating an advance health care directive or living will. There are ample online resources to draft your own living will or you can seek the help of an experienced Nevada estate planning lawyer. A lawyer can draft a living will, power of attorney, will, and trust, whatever documents you decide you need.
Note: State laws are updated frequently, including Nevada’s laws. Please consult a lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify these estate planning laws.
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