J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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The importance of a living will in Florida

Most adults in the Winter Haven area probably know what a will is and how it is supposed to function. The will is a central component to most estate plans because it lays out a person's wishes for the distribution of his or her assets upon death. However, a will can serve other important functions that have nothing to do with a person's assets.

A living will, like an ordinary will, is a legal document that details a person's wishes. However, the living will is meant to deal with the person's health care decisions toward the end of life or if he or she suffers incapacitation at any other point. A living will is an important document because it details many health care decisions that can be very personal.

Preparing a will requires attention to detail, and the drafter must make the terms of the document as clear and unambiguous as possible. Similarly, the living will should address a variety of different health care scenarios and choices. For example, a person's living will should discuss whether that person would want doctors to try to resuscitate him or her should his or her heart stop beating. But the document should also be even more detailed than that; it should cover whether the person would want an electric shock to be resuscitated, or if he or she would want doctors to only try cardiopulmonary resuscitation, more commonly known as CPR.

In addition to discussing resuscitation options, a living will should also cover whether the person would want mechanical ventilation and a feeding tube, and if so, for how long to use each. Also, the person's living should describe the types of pain management and other treatment options that he or she would want. Some people might want all available pain medications and treatments for any infections or other sicknesses. By contrast, other people might prefer to receive little or no treatment and to die at home instead of a hospital.

If a person becomes incapacitated toward the end of his or her life, or at any other point, many things can unfold with regard to the person's health. People may want to avoid putting their family members or their doctors in the position of having to guess what the person would want when it comes to health care choices. A living will helps solve this problem by clearly explaining the exact treatment options that the person would want.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Living wills and advance directives for medical decisions," Accessed on Oct. 2, 2015

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