One of the most common misconceptions about estate planning is that it only involves creating a will. In reality, there are numerous legal documents you can use to protect your assets and family members.
Estate planning is the confluence of a lot of papers and activities, all with the same aim in mind: to prepare your estate for the future.
A living will and a power of attorney are the two most popular papers. While they are similar, there are some significant variances. A living will and a power of attorney both serve distinct functions.
What is a Living Will?
A living will is a legally binding document that details your wishes for medical care in the event that you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself. This document ensures that your family knows how you want to be cared for if you are not able to communicate these wishes on your own.
A typical living Will may contain information such as who you’d like to make medical decisions on your behalf, whether or not you want life-sustaining treatments, and whether or not you wish to be an organ donor. Some states may include provisions regarding pain management, pregnancy, religious beliefs, and mental health treatment within their living wills, while other states include those provisions in additional documents.
What should you cover in a Living will?
A living will is a legal document that allows you to dictate how you want your medical treatment to be handled if you are unable to speak for yourself. It is a set of instructions, stating whether or not you want life-prolonging procedures to be carried out. You do not need to use a lawyer when drafting one. You can find sample living wills online and in many books about end-of-life care.
A “living will” is also known as an advance directive or a healthcare directive. A living will do not include the appointment of an agent, so it doesn’t have the same legal authority as a power of attorney (POA).
There are several scenarios that a living will address:
- Whether you want your life prolonged through mechanical ventilation if you are in a coma and there’s no chance for recovery
- Whether you want dialysis treatment if your kidneys fail
- Whether you want to receive antibiotics if you have bacterial pneumonia
- Whether you want CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if your heart stops
- The decision about whether or not to use mechanical ventilation is the most common scenario covered by living wills. People often decide they don’t want their lives prolonged with ventilators
- Tube Feeding: Leave instructions on whether and how long you want tube feeding to be used to provide nutrition and fluids to the body.
What is a Power of Attorney?
An agent has the legal authority to make financial, medical, and legal decisions for you. When you need extra help, a POA allows someone to make decisions on your behalf. They have the same legal rights as you but only when you are incapacitated or away from home for an extended period of time. The agent can be a family member, friend, professional adviser, or other person whom you trust to make decisions for you. A POA is no longer valid if you become mentally incompetent or die.
What is Combining Healthcare Directives?
When it comes to estate planning, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. This implies that you may need to put in place numerous components of a plan to guarantee that you, your estate, and your loved ones are all adequately safeguarded. It may make sense to have both a Living Will and a Power of Attorney for this reason alone.
A combined Advance Directive (or Healthcare Directive) is a cross between a Living Will and a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney. Both work together to ensure that your desires are documented and that you have designated an advocate to make choices on your behalf. You want to be protected, whether you have a Living Will, a Power of Attorney, or both.
Living Will vs. Power of Attorney: What is the Difference?
A living will is a legal document that states your desires regarding end-of-life care, while a power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that authorizes another individual to make decisions on your behalf in other matters when you cannot do so.
What Happens if I Don't Have a Living Will?
If you don’t have a living will and are unable to express your wishes for end-of-life care, medical professionals may be forced to make difficult decisions on your behalf. Without a living will, family members and close friends could also be left to guess what you would have wanted or to fight amongst themselves over what they believe is best for you.
When should you consider creating a Living Will?
A proper Living Will should be considered by any legal adult above the age of 18. An Advance Directive is essential not just for you, but also to safeguard your loved ones from potentially unpleasant decisions made on your behalf.
Do you require the services of a lawyer to execute a Power of Attorney and a Living Will?
No, you do not need to hire a lawyer to make a power of attorney or a living will. Indeed, Websites provide state-specific, legal forms and agreements so you may be certain that the decisions you want to be made will be respected and honored, and that the person or persons you most trust will be there to make decisions for you.