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What should you include in a living will?

Writing a will is not something that people want to think about. It brings up thoughts of death and dying, and critical decisions that need to be made. These are things that need to be well thought out and discussed with family members in advance, however difficult that may be. A living will is also called an advanced directive. It is a document that states what medical treatment you would prefer in certain situations, in the event that you can't speak for yourself. Living wills are legal documents; they need to take into account state laws, and they should be properly witnessed and notarized.

When preparing to write a living will, there are specific issues that you should address. Ask yourself how you feel about donating organs or tissues or donating your body to research. Think about what arrangements should be made for burial, and for any religious or memorial ceremony. Sometimes there may be religious issues that need to be resolved, and your decisions need to be documented.

There are situations other than death that need to be considered. What are the situations that you, personally, consider to be worse than death? A living will should document your preferences regarding a situation that would require medical equipment to keep you alive, or what happens if you no longer recognize family members or friends. One critical issue that can only be decided in advance is whether or not you issue a DNR, or "do not resuscitate" order. This is an important decision to make, because if your heart stops or if you stop breathing, the medical staff will not use any methods to revive you if there is a DNR order.

Living wills should be reviewed and revised if your feelings about certain issues change, so that your current decisions are always legally documented.