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What You Need To Know About Living Wills

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Only one in five Americans has a living will. A few pieces of paper can give your family peace of mind.

"If this is a concern to you, the time is now. You can avoid what's happening in the Schiavo case," attorney Mark Henderson said.

Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly because of a possible potassium imbalance brought on by an eating disorder. She can breathe on her own, but has relied on a feeding tube to keep her alive.

Her husband, Michael, has fought for years to have the tube removed because he said she would not want to be kept alive artificially and she has no hope for recovery. Her parents contend she responds to them and her condition will eventually improve.

Health is not yet a concern for Kay Price. Still, she and her husband recently drew up living wills.

"We wanted to make that while we were both healthy and knew what we were doing," Price said.

Henderson said there are two components to the living will. The first document makes it clear your wishes for a natural death.

"Whether or not, you want to be maintained on life support systems or you don't. Whether you want extraordinary means used to keep you alive or whether you don't," Henderson said.

The second document allows you to designate someone to make your healthcare decisions, when you no longer can. You can go to a lawyer to have the forms filled out for about $75 or you can download them from the North Carolina Secretary of State's

Web site

for free.

Either way, it is a small price to pay to know your loved ones will never end up fighting over what you really wanted.

"That's why we did the living will and the medical power of attorney, so our family would know our wishes and the burden would be lifted from them," Price said.

Make sure your loved ones, doctor, and attorney have copies of your living will. You can also save it in the state's online registry.

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