When you hear about estate planning, two terms that will come up are “medical power of attorney,” and “living will,” these two things may seem like they’re similar, but they are not. Why? One of them allows you to state your preferences for medical treatment while the other gives another person control over your medical decisions.
Understanding the differences between these two legal documents is essential. Here’s what you should know about living wills and medical powers of attorney before you have these documents added to your estate plan.
Understanding your living will
Your living will is a document that discusses your wishes for end-of-life care or life-sustaining treatment. You can use your living will to discuss issues such as if you want to be resuscitated if your organs are failing or if you want life-sustaining treatment if you are severely injured.
Did you know that only around 24.7% of people had a living will in 2020? It’s a good idea to have one added to your estate plan. Otherwise, the people around you may not know what you want to have happen in a life-threatening situation.
What is your medical power of attorney?
A medical power of attorney, also known as your health care proxy, is a document that grants legal authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This document can name anyone who is 18 or older as your proxy, so you can choose from friends, family or others.
The person you name as your agent cannot make decisions against your wishes. They are required to act in your best interests at all times, so that means that they could be bound by your living will’s requirements or may have to make the best decision they can without guidance if you don’t have one.
It’s smart to have both a living will and medical power of attorney. That way, you will be able to note what you want to see happen if you’re hurt or unable to make your own medical decisions and be sure that someone will carry those wishes out for you make decisions on your behalf.