Thursday, February 18, 2010

Living Wills vs. Power of Attorney (Healthcare)


A common question is what is the difference between a living will and a power of attorney. Simply put, a living will is often called an advanced directive or health care direction. A living will answers basic health care questions such as whether a patient wants feeding tubes to prolong their life or what type of treatments a patient wants if you suffer a terminal illness. Thus, a living will is a legal document that expresses your individual healthcare treatment plan.

A living will becomes effective upon your incapacity or your inability to direct your physician on how you want your healthcare decisions made. Therefore, a living will explains to your medical professionals how you want them to answer important medical questions. Often times, a living will and power of attorney for healthcare work in concert with one another. A power of attorney for property is critical because a living will is limited in its’ ability to predict your particular medical scenario.

In contrasts, a power of attorney for healthcare is a legal document that appoints a trusted person to manage your healthcare decisions when you cannot make your own decisions. Again, the key difference between a power of attorney for healthcare and living will is control. With a power of attorney for healthcare, you appoint another person to make your healthcare decisions when you are incapable to making these decisions yourself.

It is important to state your philosophy towards blood transfusions, feeding tubes, or enhanced life support among many other factors. In my experience, a person’s ethnicity, religion, and personal philosophy makes each living will and power of attorney unique.

In conclusion, a living will and power of attorney for healthcare are typically included in an estate planning attorney’s estate planning documents. Each state has different legal requirements, but often times, a proper living will and power of attorney for healthcare requires your signature to be notarized or witnesses to witness your signature in addition to the notary.

Sean Robertson is an estate and elder law attorney that concentrates in wills, trusts, estate planning and asset protection. Sean is available at 312-498-6080 or Sean welcomes your questions for future articles
Sean Robertson is Principal and Wealth Preservation Attorney with Robertson Law Group, LLC, which has offices in Naperville and downtown Chicago, Illinois. Robertson Law Group, LLC is mobile and is happy to travel to you within the Chicagoland region.

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