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What is a living will?

The term “living will” is actually not a will in the way people in Michigan understand it. Wills go into effect after a person passes away. However, as FindLaw explains, people often choose to compose living wills to handle their medical treatment in case they are unable to make decisions for themselves. Usually, a living will is intended to address treatment issues in cases of permanent unconsciousness or a terminal state.

It is common to assume living wills are employed primarily to withhold treatment in the event the person is a vegetable state and stands no hope of recovery. Some people do not want to go on living in such a manner and prefer to die naturally. However, living wills can also instruct doctors to continue treatment to try and save a person’s life even if the person is in a degraded state.

Living wills can be very specific. You would have the opportunity to deny yourself treatment in certain end of life scenarios, or you could exclude just specific treatments. You might elect to forgo some treatments and accept others. You can also mandate that all measures be taken to preserve your life. Ultimately, it’s up to you.

The option of a living will can prevent your loved ones from arguing over how to proceed with your medical treatment in the event you cannot determine it for yourself. Some people may value the judgment of a friend or an unmarried partner over family. With a living will, such people can be prioritized to make important life decisions for you.

Some individuals may believe that a living will is not any different than using a durable power of attorney. However, a power of attorney carries broader jurisdiction. A living will goes into effect when a person is permanently unconscious or is terminally ill. On the other hand, a power of attorney can take action simply if a person cannot make medical decisions. It does not depend on a person being totally incapacitated or about to die.

People can choose to use both a living will and a durable power of attorney. A living will can even strengthen the hand of a power of attorney by naming that person to carry out the wishes of the living will. However, since living wills can address many different medical issues, this article should not be taken as legal advice. Its purpose is to educate on the topic of living wills and probate litigation.

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