Living will and medical POA: What’s the difference?

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Firm News |

While it is not always comfortable to think about planning for unexpected health scenarios, it becomes increasingly necessary as you age. Deciding early on who will manage your health care decisions if you become incapacitated is one of the most vital aspects of estate planning. Having this initiative not only gives you peace of mind but also eases the burden on your loved ones.

As you kickstart your estate planning, you might consider two critical documents when making decisions about your health care: a living will and a medical power of attorney (POA).

What is a living will?

If you become unable to communicate with your medical team, a living will can be your way of letting them know what treatment you wish to receive. This situation might arise if you are terminally ill or in need of permanent, life-sustaining treatment like mechanical ventilation, resuscitation or artificial nutrition. At its core, a living will lets you make these critical decisions for yourself in advance to guide your doctors and family. A living will only comes into effect under the conditions specified in the document, such as when your medical situation is deemed irreversible.

What is a medical power of attorney?

A medical POA is a document that grants a third party the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This person must be someone you trust and who understands your values and desires concerning medical treatment. However, unlike a living will, a medical POA can go beyond terminal conditions and cover any situation where you are unable to communicate your health care wishes.

A living will and a medical POA each offer unique benefits that can help you when you cannot advocate for yourself. However, equipping yourself with both provides a comprehensive approach to health care and estate planning.