A living will and health care power of attorney let you tell doctors your wishes if you become incapacitated.
A living will and health care power of attorney allow you to:
Dictate what you want to happen to you if you can't speak for yourself;
Who will make decisions regarding your welfare in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes; and
Say whether or not you would want to be on life support.
Sitting down with a clear head, talking with your family, and carefully deciding what you want will make your wishes clear and save your family from having to make difficult choices while they are emotional and have little time to think. Legal Ace can help you prepare your living will and health care power of attorney so that you and your family are prepared for anything that might happen.
Note: The general durable power of attorney (a document that allows another person to make financial decisions on your behalf) is different from the health care power of attorney. If you want a general durable power of attorney, click here: General Durable Power of Attorney.
A living will is COMPLETELY different than a last will.
A living will is a legal document that informs your physician and loved ones of your desires regarding end-of-life decisions, such as whether or not to be held on life support if you are diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma.
Living wills are usually attached to a health care power of attorney or other advance health care directive which is created to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and cannot articulate your own wishes.
A living will leaves specific instructions as to how you should be treated in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. A will leaves instructions as to how your estate should be distributed after you die. Both documents allow other people to know what you wanted in the event that you cannot answer questions. The living will is oriented towards your medical condition while you are alive, whereas a will is oriented towards your property and children after you have passed away.
A living will leaves specific instructions as to how you should be treated in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. A health care power of attorney also takes effect when you are incapacitated, however, allows someone else (a person specified in the power of attorney) to make decisions regarding your welfare. A living will can direct a person designated by a health care power of attorney to do certain things and require his or her judgment in other scenarios. As an example, a living will may request that in certain scenarios you be taken off of life support. A health care power of attorney would allow someone you trust to make that decision for you or to carry out that decision in compliance with the living will.
Both kinds allow you to designate another person to act on your behalf. The difference lies in the kind of authority which will be invested in the person you designate. A health care power of attorney allows someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. In contrast, the general durable power of attorney allows someone to make financial decisions on your behalf.
Obviously, this is a decision you must make. Before you make your decision, however, consider the following:
1)Is the person strong-willed? - What if a doctor and several of your family members decide that a certain course of action with regard to your health care should be made, but your designate feels strongly that you would not agree with that decision? Will your designate stand up for you, or will they roll over and let everyone else make the decision?
2)Does the person live nearby? - The person you name may have to spend weeks or even months in your hospital room. If they live on the opposite end of the country, this may cause problems.
3)Do you trust the person? - Make sure that you feel that the person you pick will be doing what he or she thinks you would want and not just looking out for his or her best interests, or ideology.
4)Is the person a doctor or hospital employee? - There may be a conflict of interest between the role a person must play as medical employee and someone looking out for your best interests. Additionally, some states make it illegal to designate medical staff. Thus your health care power of attorney would be void.
Obviously hospital staff must be made aware that you have a living will and/or health care power of attorney. That's why it is important to tell your family about your living will and/or health care power of attorney, and to give several family members copies of your signed and notarized living will and/or health care power of attorney. Additionally, you can carry a medical alert card (such as the one Legal Ace offers in connection with its living will and health care power of attorney forms) in your purse or wallet. That way, if your family is not immediately available, medical staff will know that you have written directives.
Some states have services that allow you to register your power of attorney. That way hospitals can easily check the registry to see if your documents are there. A very small number of states actually require that you register your power of attorney in such a registry. Failure to do so in those states will render the power of attorney invalid.
Each of these documents can be designed to be valid as long as you are alive. Each of the documents loses authority if you pass away or if you sign something saying that you no longer want them to be valid. If you pass away, you'll need different estate planning device such as a will and/or a trust.
Yes. You can modify or revoke your documents at any time you wish. If you do so, make sure to follow the same process which made documents valid in the first place. Write down the modification or revocation, notarize it, and make sure everyone who has a copy of the documents also has a copy of the modification or revocation. Also, if you've registered the documents with any state or other agency you should send them an updated copy as well.
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advice of an attorney. See the full disclaimer for more details.