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Protecting yourself through a living will

St. Paul residents who have had to make serious health care decisions for family members understand how stressful it can be to arrive at a treatment decision. The stress levels can raise significantly when there is a dispute among family members as to the proper medical treatment that should be pursued.

This conflict can be reduced or eliminated if a person executes a living will. The living will directs physicians, as well as family and friends, as to what medical decisions a person would like to be made on their behalf in the event they are unable to make the decision themselves. This includes direction regarding the most sensitive medical decisions, such as whether to engage in life prolonging treatments.

The idea behind a living will is that the person is making these sensitive decisions ahead of time, while the person is competent and able to think about the issues thoroughly. The living will appoints a third person to make these medical decisions on behalf of the person, and physicians are to follow the decisions made by the third person.

As with the sensitive medical decisions themselves, it can be difficult to think about these issues, which often involve end of life care. Yet, the living will is simply another tool in the estate planning toolbox, along with wills, trusts or other estate planning documents. Those documents are executed in order to protect a person's property, appoint guardians for minors and express a person's wishes on other sensitive matters. Viewed in this context, the living will is another protective measure that can be taken by an individual, as the person can protect their wishes with respect to end of life care and other important medical decisions.

Source: Harker Heights Herald, "Seniors learn tricks of the trade to estate planning," Bob Massey, July 25, 2014

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