METNWS-09-17-20 SENIORS - WILL PHOTO

A living will is an important component of medical and estate planning.

During the prime of their lives, people typically don’t give much thought to scenarios in which they become ill or are facing the end of life. Sickness and mortality are not easy conversations to have, but it is important for everyone to approach these heavy topics with close family members so that individuals can rest easy knowing their needs will be met if or when their health falters.

An advanced healthcare directive — also known as a living will — is a legal document in which a person lists the specifics of medical care and comfort actions they desire should the individual no longer be able to make decisions for themselves due to illness or incapacity. The legal advice resource Legal Zoom says the living will may list certain things, such as whether life support is desired or if pain medication should be administered.

A living will should not be confused with a traditional will, which is a legal document that explains wishes for financial and personal assets after a person dies. Living wills also differ from living trusts, which address how assets will be managed if a person becomes incapacitated.

A living will is not always a necessity if a person does not have strong feelings about decisions made on his or her behalf while not cognizant. However, for those who do want to have a say in care, a living will is the best method for ensuring choices will be carried out. The following are some other questions people should ask themselves concerning living wills.

• Do I want to remove the burden of tough choices from my loved ones? A living will relieves grieving loved ones of the responsibility of making challenging decisions of invoking life-saving procedures or not — particularly if they’re not sure what you desire.

• Do I have firm feelings about life-saving methods? A living will allows you to spell out preferences on insertion of feeding tubes, if you want specialized hydration, if you want to be hooked up to life support if brain function is minimal, and a host of other scenarios.

• Is cost preventing me from drafting a living will? Cost need not be a factor in setting up a living will. You can download a free template from any number of online legal sources. Local hospitals often have forms as well, which can be notarized for only a few dollars. These forms are generally comprehensive and can help you answer all the questions and write in specifics.

• Have you selected a trusted person to carry out wishes? A health care proxy, according to the American Bar Association, is a person appointed by you with the authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to express your preferences for medical treatment. Together with the living will, the health care proxy, also called a durable medical power of attorney, can fulfill your wishes accordingly.

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