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What is a living will and is it important?

There are many estate planning considerations that Pennsylvanians must be concerned with and fully understand. Some like wills, trusts and probate might be relatively easy to understand. Others, like a living will and a power of attorney, are more complicated. These are aspects that people frequently ignore. It is a mistake to do so. A living will or a healthcare power of attorney allow another person to make decisions for the person's medical care if he or she is incapacitated.

Without a living will, the decision-making authority will go to a family member or a spouse. If there is no written document, the person's wishes might not be followed. Copies of the living will should be provided to family members and the person's doctor. It can be given to others if that is desired. Another copy should be kept in a location where it is safe and can be accessed if the person cannot make decisions for him or herself.

There are certain requirements for a living will. The person must be a legal adult age 18 or older and of sound mind; the document must be signed and dated; and there must be two others who witness the document being signed - they must be 18 or older. It does not have to be notarized, but it is wise to have this done. A living will can be altered at any time by the person. The old one should be destroyed and others should be notified that changes were made.

Many people are not aware of the need for a living will until circumstances arise in which it is vital to have one. It is generally believed that estate planning is limited to taking steps to protect assets at the time of death, but a living will is also an essential document. Speaking to an attorney who is experienced in all aspects of creating a comprehensive estate plan can help with this and any other issue.

Source: alleghenycounty.us, "Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania," accessed on Aug. 1, 2017

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