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It's a topic no one likes to think about but every family needs to discuss: end-of-life care. A new law went into effect this year that simplifies the process of getting a living will.
Only 20 percent of Americans have signed a living will, and the average age of those who do have one is 77. But it's something every one should have no matter the age, and now getting one in Utah is a lot easier.
"It's so tragic when somebody who's young, is in a coma, on life support for a long time, and they haven't let their family know what they want," said Cindy Sadler, estate planning attorney.
In 1990, a 26-year-old woman suffered a heart attack and lapsed into a coma. Fifteen years later, the decision to take her off life support turned into a historic legal battle, and all because Terry Schiavo didn't have a living will.
"So many people think that's something they'll take care of when they're older, but it's really true that nobody's too young to plan their estate," Sadler said.
Utah's new Advance Health Care Directive helps people plan for an uncertain future, which may include incompetence and medical emergencies. It replaces the old "living will" and "medical power of attorney" with one easy form to fill out.
The new form is less confusing and easier to execute. No attorney or notary is necessary. It just needs to be signed in the presence of a witness who is not related to you by blood or marriage, entitled to any portion of your estate, the beneficiary of a life insurance or trust, financially responsible for your support or medical care, a health care provider who is providing care, or your appointed agent.
"The main thing is to discuss it with your family. Don't just do it and tuck it away where they don't know about it," Sadler said.
Sadler says having a living will is a gift to loved ones. It prevents conflict and removes the burden of making an agonizing decision. "It's so key to peace of mind," she said.
The health care directive also allows you to make a decision about organ donation. All you need is one witness that meets the criteria.