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What is a Living Will? Living Wills and Advance Directives

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While modern medicine is often a blessing, prolonging life where there is no hope can be a curse. Over the last few decades, all states have adopted one version or another of “right to die” legislation, which is typically called a “living will“. This document can also be called a health care directive, an advance directive, or a physician’s directive.

Though you may have a last will and testament in place, it is still important to create a living will. This document exists to direct your loved ones as to your preferences when it comes to medical care, a matter which is much more important than the division of property. However, a large number of Americans have a will in place to designate how money and assets should be distributed but no living will to protect themselves.

While many people believe they have made their end-of-life wishes clear, this is not typically the case. In times of turmoil and stress, family members can easily forget a conversation or may have conflicting accounts of what specifically was said.

This type of situation made national headlines in the late 90’s and early 2000’s as the family of Florida woman, Terri Schiavo, engaged in a protracted legal battle over whether or not to terminate the life support that had kept her alive in a vegetative state for over ten years. Schiavo’s husband and many friends testified in court that she would not want to be kept alive in a vegetative state. Her parents argued that she was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and therefore would want to be kept alive until God caused her life to end.

Living Will in Connecticut

Since then, many states, including Connecticut, have strengthened their laws on living wills. In Connecticut, it would be difficult for your Health Care Representative to be superseded by someone running to court to have a conservator named in place of the Health Care Representative, especially with a carefully dratted living will. That avoids the Terry Schiavo situation where husband and parents were fighting over who had legal responsibility.

The truth is, many people truly aren’t certain what they want until they force themselves to sit down and think about it. Taking some time to consider your wishes and have them made into a living will can spare your family many years of heartache.

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