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Living Wills

Useful resources to help you learn more about Living Wills:

U.S. Living Will Registry -
Aging with Dignity -
Five Wishes -
Caring Connections -
Compassion & Choices -
Death with Dignity National Center -

The following article on living wills is by David Bach from the April 2005 FinishRich Newsletter:

Terry Schiavo's Legacy: Why You Need a Living Will

As I am sure you have heard by now, Terri Schiavo passed away a few days ago. I would like to send my love and condolences to ALL of Terri Schiavo's family and friends. As this tragic story has unfolded in recent weeks my thoughts and prayers have been with Terri and her family. No matter which way your moral or political beliefs have guided you during this emotional debate, I would like to share with you some important information that will help you and your family make sure you never end up in a similar situation. I want to urge you to focus on drafting a living will as soon as possible.

The heart-wrenching Terry Schiavo case has brought to light (and to the courts) end-of-life issues that we don't often think about. While it was incredibly emotional to watch two loving parents plea for their daughter's life, and a husband who fought for the right to speak on his wife's behalf, we must now take a step back. No matter which way your moral, political or religious beliefs have guided you, this heart-wrenching story can inspire you to create a living will. Let Terry Schiavo's legacy be that millions of people take the necessary steps to make sure their families never find themselves in a similar tragic situation.

First, you may be unclear about what a living will is. Simply put, it is a written document (also called an advanced medical directive) that has specific instructions about the treatment you want - or don't want - if you become terminally ill or incapacitated. If you can no longer express your wishes yourself, a living will provides your loved ones and doctors with your end-of-life guidelines. For example, if you have a catastrophic injury, do you want to be on life support? For how long? If you can't swallow, do you want to have a feeding tube? A living will provides answers to questions like these, making your medical wishes clear to those who would otherwise be forced to make anguishing decisions.

Separately, you should consider appointing someone as your medical surrogate (also called a medical power of attorney). This is the person whom you authorize to make medical decisions for you if you are no longer able to. Your agent should be someone you trust and someone who understands your values, because even if you have a living will, he/she may have to intervene on your behalf.

This is very important: It's not enough to create a living will. It's critical that the people you love know what you want done, so talk about it and give them a copy of the document. It's also a good idea to ask your physician to include your living will as part of your medical record.

I'm not saying it's as simple as filling out a form or two. Talking about death and making end-of-life choices can be emotional and difficult. But make the time to do it because a living will can spare your family from making heart-wrenching decisions, prevent a bitter court battle, and ensure that your last wishes are granted.

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David, I want to thank you for your inspiration. I bought and read 'The Automatic Millionaire' on my fiance's suggestion (she had seen you on Oprah) and it opened my eyes and kicked me in the butt! About half way through the 5th chapter (Automatic for a Rainy Day) I had an 'aha'. My fiance and I have a 'just in case' savings account, which we never really touch, and I'm earning 0.5% interest on it. I immediately got on the internet and opened a money market account, started it with $1,000, ... more

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