You may not like the idea of thinking about your death, but doing so can greatly relieve the stress for those you leave behind. For example, creating a living will now can help your loved ones take charge of your medical care when you lose the ability to direct it yourself.

A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that delineates what life prolonging medical treatments should or should not be taken when someone can no longer speak for himself or herself. This document is instrumental in providing your health care providers, and your family, with your wishes regarding the type of medical treatment you desire should you become incapacitated.

In other words, the living will provides others with an insight as to what quality of life means to you. It can specify your wishes as to artificial ventilation, feeding, hydration, and pain relief. It can be as general or as specific as you would like. It should also be regularly updated because your desires as to medical treatment can change as you age or go through new life experiences. When drafting a living will, be sure to openly communicate with your family, friends, and doctor to inform them about your opinions and feelings. This way, if the time comes to make such difficult decisions, they can be made with confidence and minimal conflict.

Each state provides its own requirements for a living will, thus it is important to check that you have properly executed a living will. You can easily find your state’s requirements, and even a standard form, with a quick online search. It is beneficial to have a lawyer prepare or review the living will to ensure compliance with your state’s requirements.

This may not be an easy conversation to have with family and friends, yet discussing what measures to be taken if and when you become incapacitated can make it easier for all those involved. While executing a living will is not mandatory, it is never too early to write one and to help ease the burden of those affected should you lose the ability to speak for yourself.