Among other estate planning documents, living wills are essential. Whereas a conventional will dictates what you’d like done with your assets and property, a living will specifies what kind of end-of-life care you would prefer. The Mayo Clinic explains what living wills can do and why they are so important in the estate planning process.

What Should I Include?

Making decisions for end-of-life care is a personal process. You want to make sure that your living will covers a lot of ground, as even close family may fail to truly understand your wishes. In this case, there are quite a few things that should be included in the document. For instance, many living wills contain information about mechanical ventilation and breathing tubes, both of which can preserve life when serious organ damage is an issue. You’ll also need to make decisions about palliative care. These are procedures that are intended to make a person more comfortable but not necessarily preserve a life (such as by providing pain relieving medication).  

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A health care power of attorney is a document that names a representative in the event you’re unable to make health care decisions. It’s recommended that you choose a person to act on your behalf even if you have a living will in place. This person can be just about anyone you trust, but in many cases people choose spouses or immediate family members. This person will step in if there are any disputes about your living will, which can be difficult to remedy when you’re unable to effectively communicate your wishes to medical staff.

Do I Need to Review My Living Will?

There are a few situations that would call for a review of your living will. If you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness your view of future medical care may change drastically. Additionally, you may want to update your power of attorney if you re-marry. In all situations it’s best to have an attorney’s assistance when creating any estate planning document to ensure it’s legally binding.