Putting Your Final Wishes In Writing

What is the Difference Between a Living Will and Power of Attorney?

There is often great difficulty when discussing what you medical intervention you want if you become unable to make your own decisions, as well as what your wishes are for your remains after your death. If you have not filled out and filed these important documents, it can put additional stress on your loved ones, especially if you leave them guessing. Even if you have discussed your wishes with loved ones or trusted individuals, it is best practice to put things in writing. If you become unable to make medical decisions or after you die, even informed loved ones may not correctly recollect what you have discussed when under duress.

No matter how simple or complex your wishes are, most people still tend to be reluctant to discuss final wishes with those entrusted to follow through with them. The process of completing a durable power of attorney and living will document are very simple. Most doctor’s offices and hospitals have these documents on hand, where they can be kept on file, as well as copies left with your loved ones or your attorney, if you have a will kept with one. Often times, doctors or hospitals have social workers who can assist you and your loved ones with this process. There are a few key ways in which a durable power of attorney differ from living wills, but ultimately, bother are equally important.

A durable power of attorney document is one in which you designate one or more people to act on your behalf if you should become incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions. This document is also referred to as an advanced care directive, health care proxy, or a medical or health care power of attorney. It is important that you make sure that your instructions are clear and concise, including whether or not you want to be placed on life support, for how long, and under what circumstances.

A living will is a document to provide in writing, what you specifically want done in regards to your own healthcare.  Some examples would be when and if you want to receive antibiotics, or an other life saving measures, at what point you want life saving measures to cease, and if you would like to add a do not resuscitate order. These are the some of the key elements included in a durable power of attorney document, which vary from those in a living will.

A will is how you want your last wishes carried out after your death. Unless it is deemed necessary to carry out an autopsy, you might want to decide on whether the added expense is warranted. Aside from the obvious distribution of assets and debts, you may go into as much detail about what you wish for your wake, funeral, if you want a traditional burial or cremation and a repast luncheon or dinner, or a party to celebrate your life. This document can be additionally supported with the newer five wishes document. Aside from arrangements, you can either pre-order or describe what you want on a headstone, what type of cremation urn you might like and what symbol or image you want on it, and even things you want to say to people after you die. These documents can be added to an existing will, particularly if you have an estate or valuables you wish to go to certain individuals, or favorite charities. You can also express your wishes for people to make donations to and your loved ones with a little peace of mind.

Having all of these documents in place prior to severe illness and following your death will greatly be appreciated by your loved ones. To go over these fine points, remember:

 A durable power of attorney gives others the right to make medical decisions on your behalf

Also known as and advanced care directive, health care proxy, medical or health care power of attorney.

A living will allows you to be in control of your healthcare decisions even if you are incapacitated.

A Living wills can be augmented with a five wishes document for special instructions and last words. 

All of these documents can be as simple or elaborate as you want

The Durable POA and Living Will may be added to an existing will, if you have one

Forms for Durable POA and Living Wills can be obtained at a doctor’s office or hospital

A frequent question is: Can a Durable Power of  Attorney super-cede and Living Will? The answer is no. The living will will have specific directions for what you want and therefore will override the duties and decisions of the Durable Power of Attorney in the instances mentioned in the Living Will. You may have both, but what is in the living will, will always be what is carried out.

Dealing with a loved one who is incapacitated, or following a loss is always difficult in some way. Completing a durable or medical power of attorney, as well as a living will and five wishes document is a way to alleviate some of the stress of guessing what your wishes are by putting them in writing. No one should just leave everything up to doctors as to what you want done medically, should you be unable to make those decisions for yourself.

Loved ones may have difficulty remembering what you want to happen after you die, or simply guess if you have not made your wishes known. If you do not have these documents filed, it is advisable to do so as soon as possible because life can be unpredictable, so protect your rights and wishes, and be sure that you file them with the appropriate people and entities.

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