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What are the advantages of a living will?

Whether based on a traumatic personal experience or a fear of the unknown, many people find the prospect of planning for an incapacitating or potentially deadly injury or illness to be a highly unappealing endeavor.

While this makes sense, it's important to understand that this is actually a vital element of estate planning, as no one's plan for the future can truly be called complete until he or she has taken steps to execute the advance care directive known as a living will.

What is a living will?

While people might envision a living will as a document essentially stating whether they want to live or die, there is actually much more to it than that.

A living will, which only takes effect in the event of unconsciousness, dementia or some other form of incapacity, enables people to establish in detail the types of treatment they do -- and do not wish -- to receive in various circumstances, including comas, persistent vegetative states, heart attacks, advanced cancer, etc.

In other words, it allows a person to secure control of their health and welfare in those situations where they wouldn't otherwise be able to do so.

Outside of giving me more control, what other reasons are there for executing a living will?

Executing a living will spares your loved ones from having to make difficult medical decisions during already trying times and, by extension, allows them to escape the significant guilt that can sometimes accompany certain end-of-life choices.

By enabling you to set forth how you want to be cared for ahead of time, a living will can also serve to prevent potential legal battles pitting family members against one another at a time when they should be coming together.

Are there any concerns relating to living wills of which people should be aware?

Experts indicate that one of the major problems with living wills often arises in the context of not being able to locate it in the event of a medical emergency. To that end, they advise informing friends and family of its location, or keeping it in a readily accessible location.

What all of this really serves to underscore is that a living will is a vital component of a comprehensive estate plan, and that those with questions or concerns should strongly consider consulting with a skilled legal professional. 

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