Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney—The Difference Explained
As we get older, we start thinking about the consequences of old age, such as sickness and the potential inability to take care of ourselves. In those situations, documents such as living wills and durable powers of attorney can provide significant relief and enable us to plan our future on our own terms.
While both documents can be used in similar circumstances, they have different purposes. In this article, will break down the living will vs. durable power of attorney difference and show you how you could benefit from drafting these documents on time!
Living Will vs. Power of Attorney—Basic Characteristics
One of the crucial aspects of planning for the future is ensuring your medical and financial affairs are taken care of according to your directives.
Luckily, you can create legal documents that will clearly state your preferences related to your medical care or financial affairs if you become incapacitated. The documents that you can use are:
- Financial power of attorney
- Medical power of attorney
- Living will
A living will outlines the decisions you’ve made ahead regarding your end-of-life health care, while a durable power of attorney (POA) grants another person the right to make financial and medical decisions for you. Understanding the nuances between these documents will help you figure out which one you will benefit from more.
Financial Power of Attorney
A durable financial power of attorney authorizes an individual (agent) to make financial decisions on your (the principal’s) behalf. Once you become unable to take care of your financial affairs, the agent becomes responsible for:
- Managing your property
- Paying your bills and taxes
- Handling your financial accounts
- Managing your business affairs
- Making investment decisions in your stead
- Collecting retirements benefits for you
- Selling and transferring your assets
A durable financial power of attorney goes into effect once you become incapacitated and continues to be in effect until you recover or you pass away.
Medical Power of Attorney
A durable medical power of attorney—sometimes known as a health care proxy—enables you to name an agent who will make medical decisions on your behalf once you are no longer able to. Unlike the living will, the medical POA can specify both end-of-life care preferences and other health care instructions.
You can be as specific as you want when giving directions regarding your future health care. Even if you don’t specify your wishes, the medical POA will be valid—you only need to designate a proxy, and the appointed person will have the authority to make health care decisions for you.
Keep in mind that most states allow you to combine the living will and the medical power of attorney into a single document, called an advance directive.
A living will—not to be mistaken with the last will and testament—is otherwise known as a health care directive. It serves to specify your treatment preferences if you:
- Develop a terminal illness
- Get Alzheimer’s
- Suffer an injury that can cause a loss of brain activity
A living will typically contains instructions regarding the following:
- Tube feeding
- Comfort and pain medicine
- Assisted breathing
- Organ donation
- Life support and other life-prolonging procedures
You can also use the living will to outline how you want your life to end in case one of the above terminal conditions befall you.
Living Will vs. Health Care Power of Attorney—Which Should You Choose?
If you want to ensure your future medical care is completely covered, you should create both a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. Take a look at the table below to find out when and how each document should be used:
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