What is a Living Will? Firstly, your document known as your “Will” or “Last Will” or more formally as your “Last Will and Testament” is a completely different document from the document called your “Living Will.”.
In fact, the term “Living Will” is probably confusing even to many lawyers who do not practice estate planning law - primarily because a “Living Will” does the exact opposite of what you may intuitively think.
A Living Will declares to specific parties your end of life wishes. Specifically, if you are no longer capable of communicating your wishes yourself, a Living Will declares under what circumstances you want to be kept alive and under what circumstances you want to be allowed to die.
Unlike a more general Medical or Healthcare power of attorney (which in some states is called a Healthcare Directive), your living will deals specifically with end-of-life decisions. It is a document crafted typically by an attorney in addition to any will or medical power of attorney you may already have and is an important part of your estate plan.
Having a Living Will may serve to greatly alleviate the pain and perhaps even emotions of guilt encountered by a child or spouse who has to make the decision to let you die if you don’t leave such instructions.
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