Living wills can be an important part of your estate plan. These days, most of my Legal Strategy Sessions are occurring by telephone or video conferencing. It’s changed the dynamic of the meetings, but it’s better to be safe these days. A common question that arises during the sessions is choosing between living wills and a health care power of attorney. These are both state governed documents, which means they can differ from state to state. So before you choose, you should talk to a lawyer licensed in the state where you live.
Both documents relate to health care and medical decisions that you are allowing someone else to make for you. But there are important differences.
Living Wills vs. Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney covers your medical decisions when you are incapable of making those decisions for yourself. It is normally broader in its scope than a living will. You can direct medical decisions for your deathbed issues as well as while you are still alive. It empowers a person to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
A living will, on the other hand, is normally limited to deathbed types of issues. You will usually address “Do Not Resuscitate” directions and end of life decisions. Unlike a health care power of attorney, it expresses your wishes but does not specifically appoint a person to make decisions for you.
Should I Do Both?
As a broad principle, I usually recommend a health care power of attorney for my clients to use the variety of medical decisions that you can include. Some people request to have both documents created, but normally that is not necessary. Since you can include the directions that would be in living wills in a health care power of attorney, it’s more expeditious to use just one document.
Do I Need One?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many clients wondered if they needed a health care power of attorney. While I normally told them that it was an important part of their estate plan, these days, I don’t even need to offer that advice. With all of the illness-related news, it’s become clear to most people that they need to have this kind of planning. What has become more common is that people want their living wills and health care power of attorney immediately and then want to start working on their will. Normally, I would advise them to make sure to do it all at once, but these are different times than normal.
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If you’ve been considering a will, living wills or health care power of attorney and now realize you really need a full estate plan, or this is the first you are hearing of it and would like more information, call my office to set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can discuss if it is the best option for your situation – (877) AMAYERS.