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5 Reasons to Update Your Living Will

Author: Ethan Taylor

Nobody expects to become so incapacitated that they can't make their own medical decisions, but it's something that can happen and does, which is why a living will is essential. A living will, otherwise known as a medical directive or directive to physicians, lets you state your wishes for end-of-life medical care in case you can't express them yourself. And just like other legal documents, your living will can't remain static. A lot can happen from the time you create your living will to when you actually need to use it, which is why it needs to be updated based on changes in your life, medical advances and government regulations.

Your Thoughts About Life and Care Can Change Over Time

Living wills can be created at any point in your life, but often they are crafted when the person is healthy and of sound mind. That will may be filed underdone, only to be forgotten. But one of the problems with creating it and locking it away until you need it is that your opinions about healthcare and life can change. When you're younger, you may bristle at the thought of being resuscitated, but someone older, who has witnessed so-called miracles, may want another shot at life. Your views about end-of-life interventions and technologies may also evolve. Because our beliefs and points of view change as we get older and gain more experience, it's a good idea to take a look at your living will now and then to make sure you still want, or don't want, the care you spelled out in your directive. (See also: The 10 Most-Expensive States for Long-Term Care.)

A Medical Diagnosis May Cause You to Rethink Care

It's easy when you are healthy to make sweeping decisions about your future care, but when you are diagnosed with a medical condition, everything you thought you wanted can quickly go out the window. Sure when you were younger and healthy your living will may dictate that you don't want to suffer with infirmities, but years later when you get ill you may not think the same way. Living out your life in need of a certain level of care may have seemed unthinkable, but when faced with it, it may seem like the preferable choice. Because of that reality, anyone who is diagnosed with a disease or illness needs to take out their living will to make sure it matches their current health care needs and situation. (See also: Critical Insurance: Get Paid If You Get Sick.)

Advances in Medical Technology

The whole idea behind a living will is to lay out the treatment you would want to receive if you were terminally ill, critically injured, or in a vegetative state. What a living will doesn't account for is advances in medical technology that could prolong your life to find a treatment. Let's say your living will dictated that if you end up in a coma, you don't want to be kept alive by machines. But those machines in the future may be used to keep you alive so that a lifesaving treatment can be performed. Because your living will specifically stated you didn't want to be put on a ventilator, you wouldn't benefit from the medical advances unless you updated your living will. (See also: Long-Term Care: How Technology Can Defray the Cost.)

Relocation to Another State

When it comes to living wills, where you reside matters in terms of whether or not your wishes are met. Every state has its own rules and regulations regarding living wills, which is why a move is a surefire reason to pull out your living will to ensure it gels with the rules in the state you are now living in. Move multiple times, you'll need to make sure your living will falls within the mandates of relevant state laws.

Provide More Flexibility in Your Medical Care

A lot can happen over the years in terms of medical advances, treatments and even cures. That could make a living will outdated if it doesn't include any of the new developments that transpired over the years. Because treatment can become a grey area, updating your living will to include more flexibility can go a long way in making sure your needs are met when you can no longer speak for yourself. A lot of people think they have a clear idea of what they want and will craft a living will with very specific treatment guidelines and never revisit it again. But updating it to provide more flexibility in terms of care can go a long way in ensuring you benefit from any future medical changes and aren't stuck not getting the right treatment because your living will fell into a gray area. (See also: The Middle Class and Long-Term Care Insurance.)

The Bottom Line

A living will is an important way to ensure you get the right care when you can no longer request it. But a living will can't be something you create and forget about. A lot of things can change over the course of the years whether it's medical advancements or new rules and regulations. Not to mention you may relocate or change your whole idea of what type of care you want for yourself. All of which is why updating your living will at different points in your life is a necessity.

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