Healy & McCann, PC

The importance of a living will

According to a 2017 study, only one-third of Americans have a living will. This is in spite of the fact that all 50 states have recognized the validity of such a document since 1992. A living will allows an individual to dictate the types of treatment that he or she would like to have. The document generally goes into effect when a person is mentally incapacitated for any reason.

An individual chooses an agent to act on his or her behalf in the event that this occurs. Depending on how detailed the document is, an agent may care for an individual's body after that person passes. In most cases, spouses, adult children or trusted friends act as agents. However, any adult who is of sound mind could fulfill this role if necessary. After choosing an agent, it is important to have a detailed conversation with this person.

Doing so can help to ensure that he or she understands the needs of the individual creating the document. Those who create a directive may be able to create a custom version that best fits their needs. However, it may also be possible to obtain a template form from a state government website. Regardless of how detailed a directive is, it is generally a good idea to create it as soon as possible.

Ideally, individuals will see estate planning as a process that doesn't start or end at a specific age. Even if an individual has a plan in place, it may be a good idea to have an attorney review it to ensure that it still meets a person's needs. When a plan is properly crafted and executed, it may be more difficult to challenge while a person is still alive or after he or she passes.

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