A living will is connected to a healthcare power of attorney or healthcare proxy (read our blog entry from last week here) in that it stipulates your wishes regarding healthcare, specifically that which is designed to prolong your life. This document contributes to your estate planning process. Decisions that fall into this category include (but are not limited to) use of a ventilator in case your body can no longer sustain breathing, or use of a feeding tube, to name a couple of examples.
When it comes to your living will, you will want to cover those standard provisions, but there are two additional elements which may come into play.
If you suffer from a chronic illness, you will want to make sure that your living will includes specific information about your desires regarding treatment of that illness and medical prognosis. It’s not a bad idea to educate your healthcare proxy about your illness so that if anything arises that you have not specified in your living will, he or she will be prepared to make a decision that will honor your wishes.
Does your family have any religious beliefs that may conflict with your own? If so, highlight your beliefs in your living will and make sure to communicate these to your family. The best way to do so is to approach the matter from a position of respect of their beliefs, while taking a stance that your wishes are outlined in a legal document as part of your estate plan. If you think your family will have moral difficulty seeing that your wishes, as outlined in your living will, are met, you may consider assigning a healthcare proxy who is not a familial relation.
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