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Advance directives include living wills, other end-of-life needs

Older people in Texas and around the country may wonder if drafting a living will or advance directive will really protect them should they become unable to talk or otherwise communicate due to a medical crisis. Estate planning experts say that these documents of instruction to caregivers and family can not only help the non-communicative individual's preferences be known, but they can also take a great deal of strain off one's family and friends since they don't have to guess what the person would want.

A living will is an advance directive, but it is far from the only kind. An advance directive can be any legal document that lets those in decision-making roles know an individual's medical desires if he or she is no longer capable of making decisions or communicating them. Although an advance directive may be something that is associated with the elderly and the sick, anyone could be rendered comatose following a traumatic event like an auto accident.

Living wills are specific advance directives relaying one's wishes about life-saving techniques to be used or not used on an individual. This could include orders not to resuscitate the person with CPR or information regarding how ventilators and respirators should be used or, perhaps more commonly, not used. Feeding through a tube and organ donation wishes are also often expressed through a living will.

A thoughtful estate plan may help take away some of the stress a surviving spouse and other family members experience upon a loved one's death. Such estate planning may include more than just a valid will. It could provide for wealth protection, the distribution of assets to heirs and a power of appointment for the realization of some of the decedent's goals.

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