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What a living will is and how a power of attorney relates to it

Many people know about wills, and their incredible importance to their estate plan. But you would be remiss if you thought that living wills were the same as a will. One of the differences is in the name: a will takes effect upon death, whereas a living will dictates certain things during a person's life.

So what does a living will cover? The living will covers what medical course of action should be taken on behalf of testator. The living will only takes effect if the person is in a vegetative or unresponsive state and, as such, is unable to communicate to people what his or her preferences are for medical treatment.

Given the very intricate and delicate nature of living wills, it is imperative that the individual fully consider the ramifications of the living will. You need to consider all of the potential factors that could incapacitate you and you need to know what medical treatments are available (and what you are willing to accept if you are unable to communicate your desires).

Additionally, you should talk with a doctor and a lawyer to ensure that you know all of the facts before putting pen to paper on a living will.

Last but not least, remember that a power of attorney can also cover some of the things that a living will covers. Know your options and consider the pros and cons of each. Without a power of attorney or a living will, you could leave your family in a predicament where they have to decide your medical treatment -- which can lead to in-fighting among family members.

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