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What should be included in a living will?

While it's likely that you've heard of drafting a will, you may not have heard of a living will. It's an important part of your estate planning arsenal though.

A living will is a legal document that an individual can use to detail the medical treatments that they'd like to receive if they became unable to voice their own wishes.

There are some details that every living will should address.

You should clearly describe what your preferences would be if you had difficulty breathing or if your heart stopped. You'll want to address whether you'd want doctors to hook you up to a mechanical ventilator or perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), including for how long.

When drafting your living will, you'll also want to address whether you'd want to be placed on a dialysis machine if your kidneys ceased to function. You'd also want to describe your preferences regarding feeding via a stomach or intravenous tube.

You can use your living will to highlight how you'd want any infections that you may contract to be treated. You can let doctors know whether you prefer for them to be treated aggressively using antiviral drugs or antibiotics or if you prefer for them to go untreated.

Living wills can also be used to outline your preferences concerning palliative care. It's in this document that you can say whether you wish to be released to go home to pass away once all treatment options have been exhausted. You can detail your desire to avoid invasive treatment or tests, how you wish for pain medicines to be administered or other specifics regarding your comfort care.

Finally, in your living will, you can detail your preferences surrounding tissue or organ donation. It's here that you can let doctors know that you'd like to receive life-sustaining care long enough to harvest your organs. You may also describe your preferences to donate your entire body to science in this document as well.

Very few individuals understand the pros and cons of making different choices that are required of them when drafting a living will. It can be helpful for you to discuss these topics with your physician to understand where you stand on them. You should then sit down with an estate planning attorney in St. George who can help you draft a living will that's legally enforceable in Utah.

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