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3 questions to ask before creating a living will

Surveys show less than a third of all Americans have created an advance directive, such as a living will, making it one of the most neglected documents for their physical and financial well-being. A living will states how you want to be cared for if you become physically or mentally incapacitated.

Some avoid getting this legal document because they’re too young and healthy to worry, while others avoid it because it forces them to answer difficult questions over their mortality, such as whether doctors should do everything they can to keep them alive, even if the outlook is dire.

Consider these basic questions

Before drafting a living will, ask yourself these key questions:

  • Do I really need one? Consider two factors when answering: Do you have strong feelings about being alive, but not aware of your surroundings after an accident or the onset of debilitating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s? Or think about your loved ones. Drafting a document could keep them from agonizing over those decisions.
  • What should I include? Living wills can detail all forms of end-of-life care, such as whether to revive you if you have a heart attack, whether you want antibiotics or antiviral medication to treat infections, and the use of other medicines to make you more comfortable in the final stages of cancer treatment. It can also outline your wishes for organ donations. You will also want to appoint people to fill the roles of durable power of attorney and health care proxy, who will carry out your medical and financial wishes outlined in the document.
  • Where should I keep it? Make sure your doctor has a copy as well as the people you choose for health care proxy and durable power of attorney. Keep the original at home and let close family members know where it is.

Create an estate plan which covers end-of-life decisions

A living will should not be confused with a will, which is a legal document on how you want your assets distributed after your death. However, a living will allows your wishes to be carried out by a person of your choosing. There are other options, including living trusts, which can be revocable or irrevocable. An experienced estate planning attorney here in New Jersey can help you navigate the many choices to find the plan that’s right for you and your family.

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