None of us enjoy thinking about a time when we might be unable to make decisions for ourselves – this means medical bills, stress for yourself and your loved ones, and putting your plans on hold. While your life might be spinning out of control in these unpredictable situations, it is imperative to consider who will have control over the ensuing events. That’s where a living will and a power of attorney come into play. But what’s the difference and why should you have one?
Take this hypothetical: you are in a coma, and therefore cannot communicate to your doctors. In this situation, a living will would be able to specify your medical wishes, even though you may not be able to currently express them yourself. Since a living will is an executed document, it would resolve any confusion between doctors who may have differing opinions about your medical treatment. For example, someone may include in their living will that they wish to not be resuscitated, otherwise known as a “DNR clause.” Someone with a DNR clause has legally informed the medical professionals of their desire to refuse CPR or cardiac life support.
When you appoint an agent through a power of attorney, your agent will have the ability to carry out certain duties in furtherance of your interests. In addition, they will obtain legal status to settle claims, sell property, employing professional health, and handle your finances. This person can be your spouse, parent, relative, or a friend – anyone you trust enough to take care of things in case you become temporarily unable.
There are 4 types of power attorney:
- A general power of attorney gives the agent broad power to handle most lifestyle decisions.
- A limited power of attorney permits the agent to perform specific duties for a specific amount of time.
- A financial power of attorney permits the agent to take care of all financial aspects of one’s life.
- A healthcare power of attorney permits the agent to make decisions about the individual’s health care needs.
A living will and power of attorney should not be confused with a normal will; both the power of attorney and living will are binding legal documents and are valid until the date of your death. A normal will becomes effective after your death. However, there are two exceptions available for a power of attorney: durable and springing. A durable power of attorney allows the agent to continue duties after death and a springing power of attorney becomes effective when a specific, clearly defined event occurs.
Both the living will and power of attorney are vital documents to relieve loved ones of making difficult decisions in stressful times and to ensure the outcome of those decisions correspond with your wishes.
As always, we recommend contacting legal experts specializing in estate planning to help you with these documents.