Should I have a living will?

The question of a living will is becoming more and more popular as time goes on. Years ago the idea of designating someone to make such a personal decision regarding your life was unthinkable. Decisions were simply made by doctors and family members as to the best course of action without regard to what the patient might wish, or without any knowledge as to their wishes. The living will takes the guesswork out of these decisions, as the patient has made their wishes known long before a final decision is necessary.

The living will is usually part of someone’s estate plan, right along with a will, power of attorney, and power of attorney for health care. Living wills are oftentimes confused with general wills, which can transfer property. The living will does not dispose of or transfer any assets. It simply explains how the individual feels about certain medical treatments, especially life-prolonging treatments, when the patient is very ill and recovery is doubtful. The document often states that the patient’s requests should be honored if there is no reasonable expectation of recovery. However, this is often subject to medical interpretation and the experts may, at times, disagree about the course of treatment. In those circumstances, the patient’s wishes may have to interpreted by doctors and family members as to the action they would wish to be taken. However, the living will form is an excellent document to have when someone wants family, medical personnel and medical facilities to know exactly how they feel about prolonging life when there is very little hope of their recovery, as many people are not in favor of continuing life in a vegetative state for an undetermined amount of time.

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