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What is the purpose of a living will?

Almost everyone knows what a will is and why it is necessary. Despite this knowledge, many people still do not have one. A Gallup poll in 2016 revealed that less than half of Americans have created a will.

Even fewer people know what a living will is or have ever heard of it. If you are in this group, it is imperative that you become familiar with the purpose of a living will and include it in your estate plans to ensure the fulfillment of your wishes.

What is a living will?

Despite its deceptive name, a living will has nothing to do with the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. Rather, it is a document that outlines what care you want when your life is in jeopardy and you are unable to make the decision at that moment. A directive to physicians and advance health care directive are the same as a living will.

What do you include in a living will?

A living will usually describes what medical providers should and should not do to you when you are close to death. Some questions you may want to answer include the following:

  • Which methods, if any, are you comfortable with to keep you alive when your organs fail? The most common choices are resuscitation, tube feeding and ventilation.
  • Would you rather fight disease aggressively through medication, invasive tests and surgery or let the disease runs its course?
  • What types of pain relief do you want to receive?
  • Are you planning on donating any organs for transplants or your body to science?
  • Do you have religious views that influence your end-of-life care?

Some answers may depend on the circumstances of the emergency. Therefore, the more detailed the document is, the less likely there is to be confusion or disputes when the time comes.

Is a living will enough?

You cannot possibly cover every situation, so it is important to also establish a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care. This person will make medical decisions for you when you are incapacitated.

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