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Include a living will in your estate planning documents

You might be a new retiree or a millennial who is just starting a family, but whatever your age, you should be thinking about estate planning. There are various aspects of an estate plan to consider.

Among these are documents having to do with health care and end-of-life issues. Through an advance directive, you can also put someone in charge of handling decisions that you will not be able to make if you should become incapacitated.

Stating your preferences

A living will is a written document that sets out your preferences regarding medical care in the event you cannot make such decisions for yourself. It serves as an advance directive for doctors and caregivers. For example, a living will can clarify your wishes regarding certain procedures should you be in a coma or on the verge of death:

  • Feeding and hydration instructions
  • CPR or defibrillation following cardiac arrest
  • Use of a ventilator to assist with independent breathing
  • Organ and tissue donation preferences

Naming someone to take charge

You will need someone to see that the instructions in your living will are properly carried out, and you can name this person in a durable health care power of attorney. This is another advance directive that will enable the person you choose to make health care decisions on your behalf, such as those required in a medical emergency.

This should be someone you are confident will advocate for you if disagreements should arise about your medical care. You might name your spouse, another family member or a friend you trust. It is also a good idea to name an alternate in the event your original nominee is unable to serve as your health care agent.

Expecting the unexpected

Once estate planning documents like a living will and durable health care power of attorney are in place, you can breathe a sigh of relief; you never know when they might be required. Preparing for the unexpected is always wise at any stage of life.


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