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Go on Your Own Terms

Posted on in Estate Planning

When planning for the future, establishing a will is an important part of that. By setting a will in place, you can be sure to provide for your loved ones after you are gone in a way that you see fit. But, a will is not just for the distribution of your possessions after you are gone; it can also be used to outline your wishes for yourself. A "living will" may be put in place regarding your wishes for your own medical treatment at a time when you are unable to speak for yourself.

The living will was first proposed by an Illinois attorney, Luis Kutner, in a law journal in 1969. Kutner drew from existing estate law, by which an individual can control property affairs after death (i.e., when no longer available to speak for themselves) and devised a way for an individual to express his health care desires when he is no longer able to express current health care wishes. Because this form of "will" was to be used while an individual was still alive (but no longer able to make decisions) it was dubbed the "living will."

After widespread litigation and media coverage surrounding the Terri Schiavo case, estate planning attorneys now often advise clients to create a living will. A living will usually provides specific directives about the course of treatment that is to be followed by health care providers and caregivers. In some cases a living will may forbid the use of various kinds of burdensome medical treatment. It may also be used to express wishes about the use or foregoing of food and water, if supplied via tubes or other medical devices. The living will is used only if the individual has become unable to give informed consent or refusal due to incapacity. A living will can be very specific or very general. More specific living wills may include information regarding an individual's desire for such services such as analgesia (pain relief), antibiotics, hydration, feeding, and the use of ventilators or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

In order to fully understand the complexities of a living will and to see how it can work for you, you should contact an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney.

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