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What is a living will and do I need one?

Michigan individuals may wish to consider creating a living will as part of their estate planning. A living will is an important component of an estate plan because it lets an individual's loved ones know what their wishes are should that individual become incapacitated.

A living will tells family and medical professionals what treatment an individual does or does not wish to have performed as part of end-of-life care. Individuals may specify whether they want to be put on a heart-lung machine, whether they want to be tube fed and whether they want CPR performed. A living will does not affect the treatment of a healthy individual or affect the comfort level and treatment for pain management that an individual will receive.

Living wills and their provisions can be complex. Individuals should be certain that they are correctly specifying their wishes such as at what point they would wish to have a feeding tube withdrawn. Individuals may also use a living will to leave instructions that all life-saving measures should continue to be performed for as long as possible. In some cases, an individual's religion may play a part in how they choose to approach a living will.

An individual who is preparing a living will may wish to consult with an attorney to ensure that the document is correct and uses the right language. That individual might also want to discuss plans with family and with their regular physician. After a discussion, they may conclude that they do not want to be denied nutrition but they do not wish to be placed on a ventilator or heart-lung machine if they have no brain activity.

Source: American Bar Association, "Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, & Advance Health Care Directives", November 30, 2014

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