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How living wills and healthcare powers of attorney differ

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2024 | Estate Planning

Being able to voice your medical care preferences is something you should never have to lose. Unfortunately, infirmities, illnesses or disabilities could rob you of the capacity to make your own healthcare decisions. This is why people make advance plans to carry out their future care.

You may have heard of someone making a living will, or another person composing a healthcare power of attorney. These two documents are not the same, but each can help ensure that a care provider will honor your wishes.

What to know about a living will

A living will is a legal document that outlines your preferences for your future medical treatment. It specifies the types of medical care you would or would not want to receive if you are ever unable to make decisions for yourself.

This document can include instructions about life-sustaining measures, pain management and end-of-life care. You may also explain whether or not you want resuscitation if your heart or lungs stop functioning, and you can also address the donation of your organs.

What to know about a healthcare power of attorney

A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This person will have the authority to speak with your doctors and access your medical records, and also make choices about your care.

Selecting a healthcare agent is an important decision. You should choose someone who understands your values and is willing to advocate for your preferences, even if the person sometimes disagrees with your decisions.

How these methods work together

Though a living will outlines your care preferences, it is still possible that a situation will arise that you did not conceive of. This is where a healthcare power of attorney comes in. By empowering someone to make those decisions for you, you have someone in place to consider the circumstances of your situation and make choices that align with your overall wishes even if your will does not address them.

Both a living will and a healthcare power of attorney should make up your advance care directive. With these two methods in place, you should feel confident that you have a solid plan in place to keep your medical wishes known when you cannot speak for yourself.


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