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Marital Discussions to Have Now

Your Spouse Becomes Severely Incapacitated and You Must Make Medical Decisions for Him

End-of-life care is a highly personal matter. You should make your individual choices now and explain your reasoning to each other -- perhaps one of you watched a loved one suffer too long on feeding tubes or can't imagine withdrawing life support. Then declare your wishes in a living will in order to avoid legal battles between family members. "The Terri Schiavo case drove home the importance of designating someone to make healthcare decisions for you in case you can't make them for yourself," says Christine Albright, chair of the trusts and estates department at the Chicago law firm Winston & Strawn, LLP. You can leave your instructions open-ended or spell them out precisely -- for example, when you'd want doctors to use extraordinary measures to keep you alive, a specific treatment you'd refuse, when you'd want a second or third opinion from doctors. "If your spouse can't honor your request -- perhaps because of religious beliefs -- you may need to designate a friend or relative instead," says Gordon-Rabinowitz.