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Living Will — Advanced Medical Directives

A living will is a document which memorializes an adult’s wishes pertaining to the right to withhold or withdrawal death-prolonging procedures. The difference between a living will and a testamentary (“normal”) will in Missouri is that a living will states what you would like done with respect to health care while you are alive, while a testamentary will usually determines what you would like done with your property after death.

Under Missouri Law, any competent person may execute a declaration directing the withholding or withdrawal of death-prolonging procedures. However, by law, the declaration only becomes effective if the individual’s condition is terminal and he/she cannot make personal treatment decisions.

While living wills are a valuable part of any estate plan, they usually by themselves have some problems. For instance, it is often the case that the instrument is vague. Moreover, the living will often sets out what the person wants done in certain medical situations; unfortunately, it is not always easy for a physician to determine if the condition falls neatly into the stated medical situation. Because of these difficulties, it is probably a very good idea to have a durable power of attorney to complement the living will (See: Durable Powers of Attorney).

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