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Living wills ease burden on loved ones

End-of-life care is essential for maintaining the dignity and respect of people during their final days. Living wills and health care powers of attorney play an important roll in ensuring that a person's final wishes are truly upheld. Without these documents, California residents might not receive the care they envisioned.

Unlike wills used to distribute assets, living wills focus on medical care and interventions. If someone becomes incapacitated, cannot communicate their wishes or is otherwise unable to make health care decisions on their own behalf, their living will can provide guidance. These documents are especially important for those with strong feelings regarding certain medical interventions or life-sustaining care, although virtually everyone can benefit from outlining even basic care wishes.

A living will alone might not be sufficient. In most cases, a durable health care power of attorney is necessary to fully realize a person's wishes. This power of attorney gives a designated individual the power to make decisions both according to and outside of a living will. A financial power of attorney should also be included with these documents, which gives someone the ability to handle a person's finances if they are incapacitated. Due to potential conflict of interests, it is a good idea to name separate individuals in these powers of attorney.

Most people in California focus on the "after" part of estate planning -- after death. However, it usually falls on family members to seek medical care on another person's behalf during their final days, which can be a tremendous burden to bear without any guidance. Living wills and accompanying powers of attorney help round out estate plans and provide clear and concise instructions regarding a person's final wishes.

Source: FindLaw, "The Power of Attorney, Living Will and Your Healthcare", Accessed on Jan. 21, 2018

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