What is a Living Will, and How Can One Protect You?

What is a Living Will? Otherwise known as a health-care directive, a living will is a documentation of how you would like to be cared for in the unfortunate circumstance that you’re unable to communicate for yourself. According to a new survey by FindLaw.com, less than one in three Americans currently have a living will in place to outline the medical care they desire for their loved ones and medical care providers to follow.
“Without a living will, there is no clear directive for families and medical professionals to follow in terms of what types of care should be administered or withheld in the event that you become incapacitated or unable to communicate your medical treatment preferences,” explains Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor with FindLaw.com. Dealing with the decline of a relative’s health is a very emotionally trying time, and people often don’t agree on what decisions are best in such instances. Without the clear instructions of a living will, if relatives disagree on appropriate medical care, these decisions may be taken to court for resolution, which could take a toll on a family both financially and emotionally.
Once you’ve made the decision to create a living will, it’s important to make sure you take all the proper steps to put it in place. First and foremost, you must make sure that your living will abides by your state of residency’s laws (which is especially important if you own homes in other states). Whomever you appoint as your health-care power of attorney will need to have copies of all of your health-care documents, and it would be wise to sign multiple copies so that you can give notarized original copies to anyone who needs them (your power of attorney, your doctors, etc). Don’t forget, if you make any changes to your living will, you need to reclaim all the old copies and destroy them so that there isn’t any confusion when the time comes for those documents to be useful.

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