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When a person becomes unable to make critical health decisions, a living will expresses what medical interventions the person would prefer. Without this document, loved ones are often at odds during a crisis and may feel guilty because they are unsure of what the best decision may be. Only about a third of Americans have one in place. Discover how simple it is to prepare a living will that will speak for you when you cannot.

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1. What Is a Living Will?

A living will lays out a person’s preferences for life-sustaining healthcare treatments such as feeding tubes and ventilators. It is also called a health care directive, health care declaration, or advance directive. A living will becomes effective when you cannot communicate your medical preferences, and gives guidance to family and medical professionals to honor your wishes. The document has no power while you are able to speak for yourself or after your passing. If you have not completed a living will, your family or other third parties will be responsible for making health care decisions. In some cases, the courts must intervene in assigning this responsibility.

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