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3 things to know about living wills in New York

A living will is a legal document that allows the creator to provide written instructions on how his or her health care should be managed in the event of incapacitation. Having a basic understanding of how these legal tools function is helpful both for those putting together an estate plan as well as those looking to administer a loved one's estate plan.

What exactly is a living will?

This document is just one of many available in a well balanced estate plan and is particularly useful for end-of-life care. A health care proxy is similar. Instead of providing instructions for how health care decisions should be managed, the health care proxy allows the creator to name another individual to make health care decisions on the creator's behalf.

Another important distinction between these two types of legal documents is the fact that the health care proxy is established under state law. Although the living will is not officially established under state law, the State of New York's Office of the Attorney General notes that this document is generally accepted by New York Courts.

There are many benefits to putting together this type of document. Three of the more common include:

  • Control. This type of document allows the creator to remain in control, even if incapacitated. Whether unconscious due to an auto accident or hospitalized and fighting a serious illness, this document can outline exactly what type of care the creator wishes to receive - better ensuring the creator's wishes are met.
  • Clarity. These documents also provide clarity. Loved ones will not wonder what the creator would want in these situation, these wants would be clearly listed within the living will.
  • Cost. Ultimately, use of a living will could reduce the costs to the creator's estate. Without this document, loved ones could disagree over the creator's wishes. This could lead to costly litigation and potentially deplete the assets of the creator's estate.

These are just three of the many benefits of one document that composes a well balanced estate plan. Anyone that is considering adding this legal tool to an already existing estate plan (or starting an estate plan to begin with) is wise to contact an experienced estate planning attorney. This legal professional can guide you through the process of putting together or administrating an estate plan.

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