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Living wills are a good idea at any age

Health care directives, also known as living wills, are a good idea for anyone who wants to have a say if they are ever incapacitated by injury or illness, and unable to speak up for themselves. They give you control over medical decisions during a catastrophe, and you need not wait until you are older or in poor health to create one.

In fact, the earlier you make a health-care directive part of your estate plan, the sooner you can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that doctors will follow your wishes regarding extraordinary measures to prolong your life and other end-of-life questions. In an article on the subject, the author discusses drafting his health care directive at age 28.

However, only about a third of Americans have a living will. Some people may not be aware that these documents exist. Others have likely heard of health care directives, but would prefer not to think about a time when they are severely ill and doctors are considering using breathing machines and other devices.

It may seem morbid, so sometimes people need a push. Nurses at one hospital ask each patient who comes in about their treatment preferences, thus creating some form of advance-directive planning for 96 percent of the local population.

A living will is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. It will also include more well-known documents like a will, and perhaps a trust. A conversation with an estate planning attorney can help you figure out what works best for you.

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