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Legal documents for end-of-life issues

Having a will that is properly drafted and addresses end-of-life preferences is the first step in having a sufficient estate plan. However, there are other legal documents that can help ensure that an individual's wishes will be followed if they become incapacitated.

A living will is a legal document that details the type of medical treatments that an individual does or does not want to take place in certain circumstances. It can be beneficial to loved ones who will not have to assume what an incapacitated loved one would prefer have done in specific situations. A copy of the document should be easily accessible, and loved ones should be advised of its location.

Individuals who are granted power of attorney for healthcare have been specifically chosen by someone who trusts them and have been given the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of the person who granted the authority if he or she is incapacitated. Choosing more than one person for the role of an agent may result in conflicts if the parties are unable to agree on what should take place. However, it is important to choose at least one alternate to avoid being without an agent if the person chosen dies unexpectedly or is incapacitated as well.

A discussion should take place between individuals and the person chosen as the health care agent. The agent should be clear about what qualifies for quality of life as far as the individual is concerned and when artificial interventions should no longer be allowed.

An attorney who practices estate planning law may advise clients of the legal documents necessary to ensure that their final wishes are adhered to. Advice may also be provided about how to best preserve assets for long-term care.

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