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Include a living will as part of an estate plan

Prior posts on this Moorestown business and estate planning blog have discussed the many benefits that come with creating a personal estate plan. Not only does a person have the ability to dictate how his property will be disposed of after he has died, but he may also provide for loved ones through testamentary bequests outside of the traditional methods of probate. Much of estate planning has to do with preparing for death. However, some quasi-estate planning tools concern decision-making when an estate planner is still alive.

For example, a living will is a tool that some individuals prepare while they are making their testamentary estate plans. Unlike a traditional will that outlines the creator's wishes for the time after he has passed on, a living will dictates a person's desires for medical treatment if he is unable to communicate his own wishes due to illness or incapacity. Under a living will, a person could express his profound desire to have every possible life-saving measure employed in order keep him alive. To the contrary, he could establish his desire for a natural death free any heroic medical intervention on the part of his doctors and nurses.

A living will is relevant to an estate plan in that depending upon how a planner wants to be cared for during incapacity, the directives of his living will could expedite the execution of his greater estate plan. It gives a person control over important medical decisions at a time when he is unable to communicate those desires for himself. Like a will or a trust, it provides direction at a time when the most relevant decision-maker is unable to do so for himself.

Not every estate plan includes a living will. It is up to a person to decide if he wants to prepare one for himself. A living will, however, does take stress away from an individual's loved ones by codifying his desires for medical treatment when he is physically unable to communicate them for himself.

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