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Estate Planning & Probate Specialists

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Living wills are an important estate planning document

While many are advised to create a will to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes after they pass away, Houston residents may not be aware that there are different categories of wills. Living wills are one of those types and it might be an option for someone to avail if they want to leave directions for loved ones and medical care providers in case they are facing a life-threatening situation.

Living wills or advance directives are legal documents that outline the type of medical care that someone either wants or does not want in certain instances that would prevent them from voicing their own opinion. For example, an unconscious patient facing a terminal illness may not be able to voice whether or not he or she would like life-sustaining treatment and their family members may also not know what that individual wants. A living will would provide guidance in that situation. It only comes into play when someone is unable to convey their own wishes — doctors do not consult the document if a life-threatening situation does not exist.

A living will should cover many medical procedures that would be common in life-threatening situations. Ventilation, dialysis and resuscitation through electric shock are just some examples of procedures that could be addressed, as well as whether would wish to donate their tissue or organs.

A living will is different from a healthcare proxy and ideally an individual should have both. A healthcare proxy identifies an individual who is allowed to take medical decisions on behalf of someone if he or she is unable to do so.

When someone is trying to get their estate planning documents together to provide guidance and directions for their heirs and beneficiaries, it is important to ensure that all the documents are in order. Knowing what documents are required can be complicated and consulting an experienced attorney might be beneficial in such situations.