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New York Living Wills Laws

Overview of Living Wills and Advanced Directives

People are often confused by the legal term a "living will." It's technically not a will, but a legal document expressing an individual's medical treatment preferences in the event they become unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate. If someone does not want to be kept on artificial life-support, they can make this binding and clear in a living will.

Living wills may be tailored to the needs of each individual, but often address the following medical interventions, after-death preferences, and related matters:

  • Artificial respiration (breathing machines)
  • Artificial nutrition and hydration (feeding tubes, IV drips)
  • Electric shock therapy
  • Surgical procedures
  • Bodily tissue and organ donation

What are New York's Living Will Laws?

The state and application of New York living wills are not spelled out in an specific statute, but there is a Health Care Agents and Proxies Public Health section on the books. The law doesn't spell out exactly what a living will must contain, nor does it specifically limit the scope of a living will, but they do carry the weight of the law.

In most cases, the living will is part of a larger legal document that also names a proxy, or trusted individual to make health care and end-of-life decisions on the named individual's behalf. The state requires statements and signatures by two witnesses in order for it to be valid. This form also allows you to name an alternate agent in case the primary agent is unable to fulfill his or her obligations.

See Health Care Proxy: Appointing Your Health Care Agent in New York State for the form and instructions.

The following table provides the basic provisions of New York's living wills law. See Should You Consider a Living Will? to learn more.

Code Section No statutory provisions (But see Health Care Agents and Proxies Public Health Art.29-C §2980 et seq.)
Specific Powers, Life-Prolonging Acts -
Legal Requirements for Valid Living Will -
Revocation of Living Will -
Validity from State-to-State -
If Physician Unwilling to Follow Durable Power of Attorney -
Immunity for Attending Physician -

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a New York estate planning attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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