When to Consider Living Will and Medical Directive in Nebraska

The circumstances in which these estate planning tools can help

Every adult in Nebraska should have a comprehensive estate plan in place. Estate planning is about more than determining what will happen to your assets and property; a well-crafted plan should protect you and ensure that your wishes are followed—even if you are not able to express yourself.

If you want to have input on your health treatment, it is important to consider setting up a living will and/or an advance medical directive. In this article, you will find an overview of living wills and medical directives in Nebraska.

Living Wills and Medical Directives

Unfortunately, there may come a time when you are unable to express your wishes regarding medical care. Most often, this is an issue with end-of-life care, though it can happen in other situations as well. Under the Nebraska Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, “the legislature recognizes the common-law right and a constitutionally protected liberty interest for people to direct their medical treatment.” In effect, this means that Nebraska gives individuals strong power to make their own medical decisions. Living wills and medical directives are legal tools that you can use to express your wishes ahead of time. Here is how they work in Nebraska:

  • Living Will: A living will is a written, enforceable legal document that details a person’s desires related to medical care if they become terminally ill and unable to express their own wishes.
  • Medical Directive: Also referred to as an advance directive, a medical directive is an estate planning document that contains instructions for care & treatment if a person is unable to give them. Medical directives are generally more comprehensive than living wills. They can apply in scenarios that do not involve terminal illness or end-of-life care.

Another Tool: Surrogate Decision Making in Nebraska

Many Nebraskans can benefit from including a living will and/or medical directive in their estate plan. In addition, you can also protect yourself by appointing a surrogate decision maker for health care. Also known as a health care power of attorney or medical power of attorney, a surrogate decision maker will be empowered to handle your medical care if you are unable to do so. Notably, you can have both a living will and a surrogate decision maker. A person who holds your health care power of attorney cannot override the instructions in your living will.

The form used to establish a power of attorney (POA) for health care is available from the Nebraska State Unit on Aging. If you have any specific questions about living wills, advance medical directives, or health care power of attorney, contact an experienced Nebraska estate planning & probate attorneys for assistance. They will help you and your family put a reliable, effective plan in place.

If you’d like to learn more about this area of the law, please see our estate planning overview.

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