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Preparing for end-of-life decisions with a living will

Estate planning involves more than just deciding how to divvy up your assets and properties after your death. You may also include documents in your estate plan that dictate your preferences for end-of-life or life-saving treatment and care. Such documents may prove vital should you become incapacitated due to age, illness, injury or other such factors, and cannot speak or make decisions for yourself.

Understanding living wills may help you determine if you should include one in your estate plan.

What is a living will?

According to, expressing medical treatment preferences, living wills are legal documents. These documents specify the types of treatments that people would and would not want, as well as the situations in which they would or would not want certain medical treatments. Having living wills in place may help people avoid burdening caregivers with making such decisions without knowing the choices they would make for themselves.

What provisions should a living will include?

According to, a living will may include people’s preferences regarding issues such as the life-prolonging procedures they would or would not want if they have no chance for survival. They may also dictate their wishes regarding palliative care and any religious or spiritual considerations. People may also include directions for specific treatments or situations, such as the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation or mechanical ventilation.

Rather than leaving decisions about the end of their lives to others, including living wills and other advance care directives in their estate plans may help people convey their final wishes, even if they cannot speak for themselves. Those who have not created plans or who need to update existing plans may benefit from discussing their options for expressing their final wishes and ensuring they get carried out with a legal representative.