It’s not just the elderly who should seriously think about having a living will. Adults of any age can be unexpectedly incapacitated when they have reached a potential end-of-life medical crossroads.

A living will makes clear your wishes during times when you cannot speak for yourself – for instance, if you are in a coma. It is a legal document that clarifies how you want to handle certain medical situations, including short and long-term use of mechanical breathing devices, feeding tubes, resuscitation and more.

These advance directives help ensure that your wishes are honored. They can also help avoid arguments between well-meaning but emotionally distressed family members who may disagree on what steps to take in your care.

However, not even the most thorough living will can anticipate every possible medical scenario. For that reason, it is equally important to name a medical-care agent or proxy. These individuals must be designated in a medical Power of Attorney legal document, which gives them legal authority to make medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot.

This medical proxy should be chosen with great thought. It does not have to be a relative, though it certainly can be. The important thing is that you completely trust them to keep your best interests in mind – and to follow your wishes. You should be comfortable discussing end-of-life issues in great detail with your proxy, so he or she has a thorough understanding of your preferences.

Living will forms for each state can be found online, and you should talk to your attorney for more direction and information.

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