Most individuals who live in northeastern Illinois and northern Indiana have heard about "living wills," but not everyone understands this legal term. A "will" is considered by many people to be a written document that directs the disposition of a deceased person's assets following that person's death. "Living wills," on the other hand, serve a different purpose: to express a person's wishes about end-of-life medical care and living circumstances. For this reason, these documents are often referred to as "end-of-life directives." Both Illinois and Indiana have enacted statutes that authorize living wills, but the two statutes differ only in detail.
In Illinois, a person may execute a "living will" directing that, if the person is suffering from a terminal condition and can no longer participate fully in decisions about medical care, no death-delaying procedures shall be used to extend person's life. As of the date of the execution of this document, the maker must possess a sound mind and be older than 18 years of age, the document must be signed by the maker or another person at the maker's direction. The statute specifically exempts any person who participates in the withholding of medical care from criminal liability or reprimand for unprofessional conduct.
The Indiana statute serves a similar purpose. A person who is of sound mind and at least 18 years of age may execute a living will directing that no death-delaying procedures shall be used if the person is suffering from a terminal diagnosis or incapacity. The directive must be signed in the presence of two adults, with notice being given to the patient's attending physician. Like the Illinois statute, the Indiana law provides immunity to anyone who participates in carrying out the terms of the directive.
It is important for our readers in Illinois and Indiana to consider living wills in the estate planning process.