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Living Will Basics

The term "living will" is a bit of a misnomer, as living wills are not wills in the traditional sense. A typical will takes effect upon a person's death, providing instructions such as for the distribution of his or her property and other assets. A living will, on the other hand, allows a person to specify medical treatment and care instructions that take effect while he or she is still living. For example, if a person becomes mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to make or communicate health care decisions, a living will provides family members and hospital personnel with the person's medical care instructions and preferences. This section provides information and resources related to living wills and other health care directives. You’ll also find an overview of state living will laws, a sample living will form, and a discussion of a health care power of attorney.

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