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SENIOR LIVING: Living wills: Planning for the inevitable
Creating a living will is one of those things most
people want and plan to do, but rarely get around to actually doing. Less than 30 percent of Americans currently have one. But preparing one now gives you say in how you want to be treated at the end of your life, not to mention it can spare your loved ones some very stressful decisions at an emotional time.
To adequately spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment you need two legal documents: A “living will” which tells your doctor what kind of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated. And a “medical power of attorney” (or health care proxy) which names a person you authorize to make
medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to. These two documents are known as advance directives.
Today, there are several free or low-cost resources to help you write your advance directive, and it takes only a few minutes from start to finish. Here are some good places to find help:
• Caring Connections: A resource created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization that provides free information and state-specific advance directive forms with instructions on their Web site (caringinfo.org) that you can download and print. Or, you can
call 800-658-8898 and they will mail them to you and answer any questions you may have.
• Aging with Dignity: An advocacy organization that offers an easy-to-use legal document called “Five ishes” that covers all facets of an advance directive. Five Wishes is legally valid in 40 states and costs $5. To get a copy, visit agingwithdignity.org or call 888-594-7437.
• Online resources: For under $15 Web sites like legacywriter. com and uslegalwills.com can create a living will and medical power of attorney for you by asking you questions and inserting your answers. Once you’re finished, you simply print it out (or they can mail it to you) and sign it with two witnesses present to make it legal. You may also need to get it notarized depending on the state you live in. Or, if you’re looking for a little extra help, try legalzoom.com. This site works like the others but will then have a specialist review your answers for
completeness. The cost for this service starts at $39.
• U.S. Living Will Registry: This is a nifty service that electronically stores your advance directive and organ donor information and makes these documents available to your family or health care providers 24 hours a day via the Internet or telephone. The cost to register is $125. See uslivingwillregistry.com for more information.
If you are looking for a comprehensive estate planning tool “Quicken WillMaker Plus 2010” (nolo.com; 800-728-3555) is a top resource that uses computer software to create state-specific living wills, as well as property wills, trusts and many other documents. You can purchase it as a downloadable software program for $40, or you can get it on a CD for $42. If you would rather use a lawyer to draft your advance directive, look for one who specializes in estate planning and health care related matters. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (naela.org), and the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (naepc.org) are good resources to start with.
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