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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Do I Need a Living Will or DNRO for My Estate Plan?

No one wants to contemplate suffering a life-altering accident or illness. However, anyone can face incapacitation or an end-of-life situation. Forethought and advance planning will ensure that your wishes are fulfilled and the burden of life-ending decisions are not unduly placed on your loved ones.

A comprehensive estate plan should include advanced directives that account for incapacity and end of life care. California estate planning attorneys are often asked by clients, “Do I need a living will or DNRO for my estate plan?” The best answer is you can, and probably should, have both.

What is a DNRO?

A Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNRO) is a directive informing medical professionals that you do not want life-saving measures if your heart or lungs stop working.

When you execute a DNRO, your medical records will reflect that attempts to resuscitate you should not be taken, including the following measures:

  • CPR
  • Chest compressions
  • Electric shock
  • Breathing tubes
  • Drugs to stimulate or restart the heart

DNROs are essential notices, signed by a medical doctor, that make clear your wishes and spare your loved ones the agony of making treatment decisions on your behalf during a critical care trauma.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a directive that goes into effect when you are unable to make medical care decisions for yourself. In a living will, you may be very detailed about your medical and life-care preferences. You may also elect to appoint an agent who will make these decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself.

Circumstances that may prevent you from making decisions regarding medical treatment include:

  • Mental incapacity
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Lost consciousness
  • Critical injury
  • Coma

The flexibility of a living will allows you to not only define the varying circumstances in which you want life-extending vs life-saving care, but also the acceptable types of medical treatment to be provided:

  • Ventilator
  • Dialysis
  • Feeding Tubes
  • Blood transfusions

Unlike a DNRO which addresses only life-saving measures, a living will can detail your life-saving and life-prolonging preferences, as well as after-death concerns:

  • Medical treatment
  • Pain management
  • End-of-life care
  • Organ donation

How a California Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You

When deciding on advanced care directives and life-prolonging treatments, quality of life and the financial burden of care should be considered. This is especially important for the welfare of loved ones who will survive you.

When you include a living will and DNRO as part of your overall estate plan, you can evaluate the life-saving and life-sustaining measures you choose to enact against your overall legacy objectives. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you evaluate your estate plan in total and ensure that all components work to support your wishes.

To learn more about DNROs, living wills, and estate planning, contact our office today. Together with a highly qualified California estate planning attorney, you will be able to formulate a comprehensive estate plan to satisfy your wishes and support your legacy.


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