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A Living Will: Why You Need One

A living will is used to specify the treatment you wish to receive when it comes to end of life decisions. It is often accompanied by a health care proxy, which allows someone of your choosing to make treatment decisions for you if you are incapacitated. The living will offers specific instructions for particular situations such as being a in a permanent vegetative state. Living wills are an advance directive that legally only applies after a terminal diagnosis. Other advance directives include health care proxies, HIPAA authorizations and powers of attorney, and are used much more broadly.

Do You or a Loved One Have a Living Will?

Only a third of American adults have prepared an advance directive for end-of-life care. Those older than 65 are more likely to have a living will prepared than younger people or those with a chronic illness. Some may be unwilling to prepare these documents because they fear they will not necessarily reflect their wishes at the time they become relevant. People can change their minds as they age and develop medical problems and become more willing to undergo treatments they would have otherwise rejected when they were younger. However, legal documents can be changed if executed properly. However, if you continue to communicate your values with your proxy, they will be able to make decisions based on your current wishes.

Many simply do not want to think about suffering from severe injuries or illnesses, some are not aware of advance directives or health care choices, and other simply do not want to fill out forms, or take the time to discuss the issue with their doctor or estate planning attorney. These excuses may lead your family to make uncomfortable and stressful decisions later on. Think of preparing advance directives like living wills and health care proxies as a gift to your loved ones. They tell your loved ones what your wishes are, and it takes away some of the guilt they would otherwise feel by making such difficult choices.

Why is a Living Will Important?

The decisions you make and instructions you give to family members in your living will reduce ambiguity and prevent family disputes during a difficult time. It may seem like something that can be put off, but life is unpredictable. We never know when an accident may happen, or when our health will fail. These documents could be relevant at any time. Furthermore, a living will is a straightforward document that is applicable in vary specific circumstances. It is a good place to start your basic estate plan.

However, it is important to work with an estate planning attorney to make sure your beliefs are properly stated. Other healthcare documents should also be prepared at that time, such as a healthcare proxy that designates a trusted person to make medical decisions for you and relay them to doctors or family. Once you have signed your documents, make sure you keep them updated, especially if you move to another state, and be diligent in communicating with people you named to act on your behalf.

If you need a living will or health care power of attorney or already have one that you would like reviewed, please contact us to discuss a specifically tailored plan to meet your family’s needs. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

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