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Maryland residents who want to ensure that their wishes and designations are in order in estate planning may find that there are several things that involve family. But many may wonder how best to initiate these conversations with family. There may be no easy way to start a conversation about the end of one's life. However, there may be tools available to help people know what questions to ask and which ones to be prepared to answer in regards to living will wishes.

Planning for the event of incapacitation or death may not be everyone's idea of a great time. Nevertheless, it is a very important part of planning for the future. When someone becomes incapacitated or passes away, they leave behind family and loved ones that may suffer if the proper documents and wishes are not known and in place. Having documents including a living will, power of attorney and an advanced directive is crucial to the planning process. Additionally, communicating with loved ones about these documents is crucial.

A living will and advanced directive often are drafted together, but have different purposes. An advanced directive is broad as it refers to the overall health care wishes of an individual. A living will is more specifically designed to state one's wishes on how medical treatment should be handled in the event of a terminal illness, incapacitation or fatal illness near the end of life. Power of attorney for health care documentation will designate who will be in control of medical decisions when the individual cannot make decisions for themselves.

There are numerous options available to help Maryland residents get started with estate planning. While many of the do-it-yourself options seem safe, they cannot replace the valuable advice and security of someone who can tailor an estate plan to an individual family's situation. Documents such as a living will should be very carefully thought out and drafted in order to ensure accuracy and legality, as well as ensuring that one's wishes are clearly and thoughtfully detailed.

Source: ABC News, "How to Start Your End-of-Life 'Conversation'," Shari Barnett, Aug. 16, 2012

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