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What is a living will?

A living will gives instructions to doctors and family members on the kind of medical care you wish to receive in the event that you become incapacitated. It is not a power of attorney for personal care, which assigns responsibility to a specific person in case you cannot make your own decisions. It is not the same as a will, which outlines your wishes for the distribution of your estate upon your death.

Here’s an example. In a living will, an individual might request not to be sustained by artificial life support if there is no hope of a reasonable quality of life; or, in the case of a terminal illness, to be relieved of pain and suffering through medication but not to receive any invasive testing or treatments.

Creating a living will makes it easier for family and the medical profession to make decisions at a difficult time. While they are not recognized as valid documents in all provinces, it will still act as a guide to the people who care for you.

For more information on estate planning and creating a living will:

You Can’t Take It With You: The Common-Sense Guide to Estate Planning for Canadians, 2nd Edition, by Sandra E. Foster, published by John Wiley & Sons, Canada.