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What is a living will and do I need one?

Individuals in Ohio who are working on estate plans may wonder whether they need to include a living will. A living will is a way that an individual can make their wishes known regarding end-of-life care after he or she is no longer able to express those wishes.

With a living will, an individual communicates information about how they wish their medical care to proceed if they become permanently unconscious or suffer from a terminal illness. A living will can specify what type of life-sustaining care an individual wishes to receive such as whether or not they wish to have nutrition or CPR withheld. An individual can also specify that they want all measures in place to preserve their lives as long as possible.

Living wills can be complex documents, and it is important that they are properly prepared to avoid any confusion. For example, individuals who are considering what kind of assisted breathing they wish to specify need to keep in mind that if they have a condition like COPD, they may already be using one of those devices. A living will may also have implications for an individual's religious beliefs, and this must be weighed carefully.

An individual who is considering a living will may decide that if they are terminally ill, they wish to continue tube feeding but do not want to be placed on a ventilator or have CPR done. An estate planning attorney may be helpful in putting together a living will as part of an estate plan to ensure that these and other considerations are addressed. A living will in Ohio must contain specific language from the Ohio Revised Code.

Source: American Bar Association, "Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, & Advance Health Care Directives", November 30, 2014

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