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For Peace of Mind, Draft Your Will

Thursday, March 24, 2005;

For the longest time, my husband and I avoided getting a will.

At first, we procrastinated because we couldn't agree on a guardian for our children. But there was another, more serious, reason for the delay -- we knew we would have to decide how we wanted to die if, God forbid, we got into an accident and couldn't make medical decisions for ourselves.

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Eventually, we thought through this uncomfortable topic and hired an attorney to draw up a will for us. Just think of all the time, agony and money that could have been saved if Terri Schiavo had done the same. But it's hard to say that, since Terri was only in her twenties when she suffered brain damage from heart failure. How many of us are thinking of living wills when we're that young?

But maybe the Schiavo case will encourage more Americans to get a will and make sure it includes a "living will" section.

Post reporters Rob Stein and Karin Brulliard reported this week that the Schiavo case has triggered a surge of interest in living wills. "We are getting absolutely slammed here -- the calls are coming in left and right," Paul Malley, president of Aging With Dignity, a national nonprofit group based in Tallahassee, Fla., told the reporters.

Not sure what a living will is or what's involved in drawing one up? Then read Neely Tucker's article, "Documents Are Easy to Draft and May Bring Peace of Mind."

You can also read a column I wrote on the topic in 2003, another time when Schiavo's husband was fighting with his in-laws to have his wife's feeding tube removed -- "Be Sure to Have 2 Wills So There's a Way."

In that column, I recommended a Web site called lifeadvice.com. It's run by the insurance company MetLife, but don't let that worry you. It's full of sound advice about assembling a will and drafting a living will.

Tucker, in the article linked above, recommended another resource -- caringinfo.org, a Web site sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Elsewhere, AARP has an "End of Life" section on its Web site with information about wills and medical directives.

Let's Chat About Retirement

Join me next Thursday at noon ET for an online discussion of this month's Color of Money Book Club selection -- "The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life" by Jan Cullinane and Cathy Fitzgerald. Cullinane will be my guest and take your questions about retirement planning.

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