Living Will vs. Power of Attorney

Included in an estate plan is creating a Power of Attorney and a Living Will.

A Living Will is a legal document that sets out your healthcare wishes in the event you cannot articulate them yourself. It's smart to talk to your primary care physician so he or she can let you know what sort of decisions a good Living Will covers. A Living Will is your signed statement about what kind of care you will and will not accept.

A Medical Power of Attorney gives someone the ability to make healthcare decisions for you. Generally, this person is a spouse, close friend, or trusted family member and they are referred to as an "agent." They'll need to be your advocate at the hospital and may need to assert control if there are any disagreements among family members or between your family and doctors.

A Power of Attorney is most valuable when it is made "durable" and includes a financial provision, it grants permission to your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf when you can't make them yourself. You can choose how limited or how broad these powers are.


What kind of scenarios should you cover in a living will?

Your family and doctor may consult your Living Will if you're incapable of making decisions yourself. Since some of us have issues with tube feeding or organ donation, if you have serious concerns about dialysis, antibiotics, or other forms of treatment, of if you're interested in donating your body to a scientific study or medical school, it's a good idea to discuss those in your Living Will.


Should you create a Durable Power of Attorney?

A Durable Power of Attorney lets you appoint someone you trust usually a family member or close personal friend to make healthcare and financial decisions for you, a good Power of Attorney keeps your affairs in order if you can't make those decisions yourself.


What does "durable" mean?

In an estate planning context your POA is "durable." Durable Powers of Attorney are effective if you're incapacitated, this is the time your agent will actually be acting on your behalf.

A Durable Power of Attorney is occasionally called an "Enduring Power of Attorney," depending on the jurisdiction.


Who should you choose as your agent?

A Durable Power of Attorney lets a trusted friend or family member take care of your affairs.


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