It’s uncomfortable for most people to think about end of life care. It is, however, a wise idea to make your wishes known, not just for your benefit, but your family as well. This is where a living will comes into play.

A living will is a document that outlines your preferences for medical care if you become incapacitated and otherwise unable to communicate. For example, would you want to be put on a ventilator to stay alive? If so, for how long? Would you be comfortable being fed via a tube? How much pain medication would you want administered? If you are in a terminal state, would you prefer to pass away at home instead of in the hospital?

One of the most important aspects of a living will is establishing your acceptable standard of functioning. The famous Terry Schiavo case was a good example of the kinds of problems that can come up if there is no living will available. If one was present, the resulting fight between various family members and the courts never would have happened. Most importantly, Ms. Schiavo’s wishes would have been known and carried out. Without them documented, everything that happened was guesswork.

Even if you are healthy and not elderly, it’s a good idea to put together a living will just in case. We don’t want to think about it, but accidents do happen. The odds of something terrible happening to you are very slim, but you still want to have your wishes carried out in this unlikely scenario.