First Responders Need Living Wills Too

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

Although first responders experience illness, injuries and death every day, they are often hesitant to address having a living will prepared for themselves.

A living will or advance directive provides instructions about your end-of-life care. It can include as much or as little direction as you want, such as using pain-relieving treatments, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders, life support and organ donation. Contrary to most other estate planning documents, a living will has no authority after the creator of the document passes away.

A living will helps your family members carry out your wishes. However, it rarely covers everything. For instance, if you don’t specify whether you’d want certain life-saving treatments like emergency surgery in the living will, have a trusted agent to act in your best interests and help you to carry out your wishes.

First responders and anyone with a high risk of serious injury because of their career duties need both a health care power of attorney and a living will.

Be in control of your end-of-life decisions. Without a living will, the decisions to carry out your last wishes could be made by the court. State law takes effect and dictates who will have a say in your well-being. A living will lets you control how decisions are made and who will make them.

Protect your life partner. Without a living will, the law will place the health care power of attorney in the hands of your spouse, and then your family. If you have a long-time partner, but are unmarried, your partner would have no say in any end-of-life decisions.

Select one of your children to assist. With a health care power of attorney, you eliminate confusion as to which of your children will make the decisions to enforce your living will and decisions on end-of-life care.

Peace of mind. A living will gives you and your loved ones comfort and peace of mind. This is a stressful time, and a living will helps smooth out the logistics and questions that will arise.

Organ donation. You can state your instructions for organ donations in a living will.

Without a living will, decisions can become difficult for family when a loved one is in a terminal state. Families are left wondering whether they made the right decision. Your living will lets you approve and announce your health care decisions beforehand, avoiding confusion and fighting.

Our thanks to for an insightful article: “Why EMS providers need living wills”

As always, if you have any questions about living wills or any of the estate planning documents needed to protect your wishes for yourself and your loved ones, call the office at 516-307-1236.

About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.