By: Benjamin Ruesch, Esq.

With the recent passing of Utah’s adopted celebrity Gary Coleman, star of Different Strokes, much attention has been brought to the fact that his life was terminated at the direction of his ex-wife Shannon Price.

She was given the full authority to do so pursuant to an Advance Healthcare Directive, more commonly known as a “Living Will,” which had been filed with the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

It was subsequently discovered that the pair had been secretly divorced in August of 2008.

For that reason, several have questioned whether Shannon had proper authority to remove life support.

As a matter of estate and life planning, one should always properly update legal documents to account for major life events such as divorce or the birth of a new child.

Doing so will avoid potential legal battles between family members and friends.

Advanced Health Care Directive Act

As a practical matter, it is very easy to update or create a Living Will because in 2008, Utah passed the Advance Health Care Directive Act.

Part of the intent of passing this Act was to make it easy for everyone to have their medical wishes known upon incapacity or death.

By using the statutory form found at §75-2a-117, one can easily make his or her own living will and subsequently file it with the local hospital or doctor’s office.

The form consists of a health care power of attorney and a living will. It is strongly advisable for all to use this statutory form for one simple reason: pursuant to the statute, the form is presumed valid, which means that one desiring to challenge the validity faces a major uphill battle in establishing otherwise.

An attorney that drafts something more complex or different than the statutory form is not serving the best interests of the client.

Having an updated living will helps what?

Having an updated living will helps set forth the type of medical care and attention you desire, in case of emergency.

Medical staff, including doctors, nurses, etc., must abide by the directives given in the will or face legal liability.

Of course, it is a commonly known that nobody likes to think about death or incapacity. And even though major life events seem to occur at the worst time, it is very essential to be responsible and plan for life’s contingencies.

Creating and updating one’s Advance Healthcare Directive is a simple, free (or inexpensive) way to do so.

For more information about living wills, and to get a blank copy of the statutory form you can visit either or contact Mr. Ruesch at (435)635-7737 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your individual estate and life planning needs.

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