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Study Says African Americans Less Likely to Use Living Wills

One of the most important estate planning-related documents you can have is a living will. These documents, also known as advance directives, are legal documents that establish your end-of-life plans, such as directions about using heroic measures to save your life or the use of long-term life-support machines.

Over the last few decades, as advances in medical science have made it possible to extend our lives even further, living wills and advance directives have become more popular. People use them to ensure that if they were to become incapacitated due to illness or injury that they are not kept alive for a long period of time by artificial means when their quality of life is unlikely to ever recover.

Despite their growing popularity, an interesting recent study showed that the use of living wills seemed to be connected to race to some degree. In fact, the National Center for Health Statistics study showed that blacks were only about half as likely to have a living will in several scenarios.

The study looked at individuals in three different situations, those in hospice care, those in residence at a nursing home, and those receiving long-term home health care. The study found that similar numbers of white and black hospice residents used living wills, but only about half as many blacks living in nursing homes or utilizing home health care used the documents.

The reason behind the disparity is not clear, but some experts think that past discrimination against African Americans in the providing of medical services may be responsible.

If you have not drafted a living will, you may want to consider talking to an attorney to identify your needs and draft a document that will work for your situation.

Source: USA Today, Study: Blacks less likely to have living wills, medical directives, Janice Lloyd 1/7/11

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