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What Is a Living Will and What Does It Protect?


Making decisions that are related to the end of a person’s life may not be an enjoyable task, but it is often critical. Putting together estate plans that dictate what should be done with properties, money, and other assets after a person is gone can be a big part of this process. However, it is important not to forget how important it can be to address medical care and related needs as well.

Many estate plans include powers of attorney or living wills, also called advanced care directives. These documents help a person maintain some control over their care, even when they can no longer express their wishes.

Advanced care directives, for example, are ways to inform doctors and physicians of a person’s wishes regarding life-saving measures in certain situations. Generally speaking, a living will can specify what, if any, treatments or procedures are acceptable in order to prolong a person’s life if he or she is incapacitated.

Certain medical efforts can be made or denied for a person who becomes so sick or severely injured that they are in a vegetative state, based on conditions laid out in a living will. It is just one way that people can control their care, even when they may not be conscious.

The instructions that are included in a living will can advise doctors on how to care for a person, so it is important that the plan is clear, accurate and legally binding. Any ambiguity or confusion in this document can make it very painful for the loved ones who then must make extremely difficult choices.

Source:, “Estate Planning: Enforcing a living will,” Christopher Yugo, July 27, 2013

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