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Does Your Living Will Really Protect You and Your Family?

An Important Estate Planning Document

One of the most important estate planning documents is your Living Will. A Living Will directs what medical treatment and medications you should receive when you become disabled and cannot express your own wishes. Living Wills are designed to protect you and your family.

When You Become Disabled

I say "when you become disabled" rather than "if you become disabled" because every one of us will be disabled at some point in our lives. It may be the last ten minutes of our life or the last ten years. Also we may be disabled for a day or a week and then recover our ability to make decisions on our own. This is why a Living Will is so important.

In Minnesota, a Living Will is sometimes called a "Health Care Directive", a "Power of Attorney for Medical Care", an "Advance Care Declaration" or by several other names.

The focus of a Living Will is that the patient designates another person to make decisions for him or her when the patient is disabled.

Differences Between Living Wills

Not all Living Wills are created equal. For example, the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (also known as HIPAA) can significantly affect how a hospital or clinic will interpret a person's Living Will. It is important to make sure that your Living Will is in compliance with HIPAA.

Another important thing to do is to make sure that your Living Will is delivered to your doctor or clinic. A carefully drafted Living Will has no effect if it is sitting in a lawyer's office or at home in your desk when it is needed at the hospital. What is more, sometimes people will sign a new make-shift Living Will that they receive at the clinic prior to a medical procedure. Many people do not realize that the make-shift Living Will they sign at the clinic usually invalidates the carefully written Living Will that an attorney wrote with them.

A Living Will can also direct what is to be done with the bodily remains of a person after his or her death. Does the person want cremation or traditional burial? Does the person want to donate their organs to help save other's lives? Are there other ceremonial or particular things which should be done at the funeral? These kinds of questions can also be addressed through a properly written Living Will.

Make Sure Your Living Will Is Valid In All 50 States

Lastly, there are different laws concerning Living Wills in other states. This means that it is important to have the Living Will written in such a way that it is valid in all 50 states. It should have the proper provisions, so that it is valid whether you need a medical treatment here at a clinic in Minnesota, or other states like California or Florida. It is also helpful to the estate planning attorney to have access to the Living Will provisions of all 50 states. This way, the client can get the best possible Living Will to meet the family's needs.

When it comes to a Living Will, "one size" does not fit every circumstance. All Living Wills are not created equal. They serve a vital part in a person's estate plan, and should be crafted carefully to protect you when you become disabled. It is important that these vital decisions are made when you are fully alert and aware of your choices.

The contents of this article are for information only and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning.

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