Do I Need A Living Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney?

Living willMany folks don’t under the difference between a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney and it is clear why there is so much confusion!

A Living Will (often called an Advance Decision or an Advance Medical Directive) is a record of your choices on your health and care needs, if you were to lose your mental capacity whereas a Healthcare Power of Attorney is a delegation to give other individuals the power to make health and care decisions on your behalf, in the event that you were to lose mental capacity. You can have both a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney. 

It is important that you speak with your estate planning attorney about your objectives for these documents, the amount of discretion you want your family and medical professionals to have, as well as the implications of creating both documents.

A Living Will can give you some peace of mind knowing that you will not be artificially kept alive if there is nothing medical science can do. This document allows you to state your views on life-sustaining treatment.  It can be especially important, if you hold strong views about a health situation or if you have a life-limiting illness and want to be certain that your wishes are met..

If I have a Living Will, why do I need a Healthcare Power of Attorney? A Living Will can only record your wishes as to medical treatment if you are in a permanent vegetative state or have a terminal illness.  A Power of Attorney, on the other hand, records your wishes about medical treatment when neither of those conditions apply. It states your thoughts on other matters, such as where you live and other general needs as well as empowering your agent to make medical decisions when you cannot make those decisions yourself. The important distinction between the two is that the Healthcare Power of Attorney appoints an agent of your choosing to make these decisions whereas the Living Will states your healthcare wishes without intervention from others.

One, very important consideration: your living will is in force unless you revoke it.  That means that if your views about life-sustaining treatment were to change, but your Living Will has not, no one can override it. That’s why I am always amazed by hospital that so casually ask for this document; it might be best if it is kept by someone that can deliver it to the medical professionals at the appropriate time.  (That’s just my .02).

Obviously, with a Healthcare Power of Attorney, a loved one is asked to administer it.  If your views were to change over time, then your agent will be able to decide if your wishes were based on past instructions or more recent developments.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (September 21, 2017) “Living Will or Lasting Power of Attorney?”


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