Do living wills have to be updated?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 21, 2012
A fellow caregiver asked...

Do living wills and other forms have to be updated? My mother-in-law has a living will from 1992 and I am wondering if it is still valid.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

It is always a good idea to review and update a living will, caled an advance directive in most states – and best to do that every year or so. That is because lots of things related to it may change: individual preferences about medical care, available treatments and procedures that seem more or less inviting and even state forms that make it possible to direct medical care in a greater number of situations.

That written, your mother-in-law is still in a better position legally, since she has something in writing, than those who have never signed on the dotted line. While state forms change periodically, the laws in most states will honor the older forms and formats.

Still, the best course would be to get a current advance directive form – you can get one free from a local hospital – and review and complete it with your mother-in-law, just to be sure her current wishes are accurately reflected. It sounds as if she's already done the hard work, which is thinking about the issue.