We were all told back in grade school that the only stupid questions are those that are never asked. Some people understand the wisdom of this statement early on and others do not, but it is true that there is no reason to be embarrassed when you are not entirely sure about the meaning of something. Finding out the answers is always going to be the best course of action rather proceeding with assumptions that may be false. There is no reason why everyone would be an expert on everything (Cliff Clavin notwithstanding) but with this in mind let’s take a look at the estate planning instrument called the living will.
The standard will or “last will and testament” that is used as a vehicle of asset transfer is the most common estate planning tool and we are all familiar with it to one extent or another. Some people choose to create living trusts as an alternative to a will, so there are those who confuse the living will with a living trust. Both standard wills and trusts involve the transfer of assets to your loved ones, but the living will is an advance health care directive that is strictly involved with your medical preferences.
With a living will you elucidate how you feel about things like being kept alive through feeding tubes or other forms of artificial life support if you were to fall into a non-responsive or terminal condition. When you think back to the case of Terri Schiavo that played itself out in the public eye the 1990s you can see why living wills are so valuable. Terri was in a vegetative state for some eight years after suffering from cardiac arrest in 1990. Her husband finally decided that removing the feeding tubes that kept her alive would be best, but her parents did not agree and a court battle ensued.
We all have our own feelings about matters such as these and there is no inherent right or wrong. Through the execution of a living will you put all doubt to rest and make a legal statement that asserts your preferences in writing that will hold sway should you ever become unable to communicate them.
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