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What should be included in a living will?

Living wills are an essential part of an estate plan. While they don't provide instructions on your assets, they do afford vital information to your medical team should you be incapacitated by illness or injury. Not only does this ensure your end-of-life medical care wishes are honored, it also prevents the burden from being thrust upon your family when the time comes. The Mayo Clinic explains a few of the decisions that can be addressed within a living will. 

The goal of palliative care is to provide comfort to a person while stopping short of performing any life-preserving measures. Because it consists of so many different procedures, it's important to spell out your palliative care vision explicitly. For instance, you might prefer to remain at home with your family instead of being in a hospital. You might also request the administration of pain medication, which can help you remain comfortable during your care.

Resuscitation is not considered a part of palliative care since it's intended to re-start a heart that has stopped beating. Living wills often include information on resuscitation, with instructions on when medical staff should refrain from providing treatment. This includes things like CPR and defibrillation, which entails using a machine to deliver electrical impulses to the heart to make it start beating again.

Breathing treatments are another thing to keep in mind. Being placed on a mechanical ventilator will allow you to breathe even when your lungs are not functioning. Some people wish to forgo this treatment altogether, while others might specify an exact period of time they wish to be left on a machine before the treatment should cease. The same determinations can be made about feeding tubes, which provide sustenance to patients that are unresponsive or otherwise incapacitated. When making decisions about your living will, it's best to consult with a doctor as well as an attorney to make sure you have a full understanding of the process.

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