Living wills are created before you become incapacitated and are limited only to the issue of prolonging life upon the onset of terminal illness or entering a persistent vegetative state. In WV we have a statutory form for living will that you may use, or you may choose to use a different form or a document you create yourself. To be valid, a living will must conform to five requirements set by law:
•it must be in writing;
•it must be executed by the principal (the person who wishes to avoid life support) or by the direction of the principal if the principal is physically unable to do so;
•it must be dated;
•it must be signed by the principal in the presence of two adult witnesses; and
•the witnesses must sign the living will, and their signatures must be notarized.
West Virginia law does not allow certain people to be witnesses for you when you sign a living will. Your witnesses may not be:
•any person signing the living will for a principal who is physically unable to do so,
•related to the principal by blood or marriage,
•entitled to any portion of the principal’s estate unless the witness does not know that he or she is in the will,
•financially responsible for the care of the principal,
•the attending physician, or
•the principal’s named medical power of attorney representative or the person named as successor medical power of attorney representative.
To enhance the likelihood that your living will is available and followed it should be given to your physician, local hospital, and other medical providers you use. West Virginia now has an e-directory that you can opt into so that your forms can be automatically accessed by participating medical facilities throughout the state. Your living will should be included in your medical records. If you do not have a doctor, give a copy to someone else to give to a doctor in case you are not able to do so. When a living will has been executed, the attending physician must provide confirmation and documentation of terminal condition or persistent vegetative state. This confirmation allows the instructions of the living will to be carried out.
Instructions on how to obtain a living will form are available in Appendix C.
For more information, see: W. Va. Code §16-30-4 (2015); http://www.wvendoflife.org (last visited May 28, 2015).