A health care power of attorney and a living will are legal documents that provide you with options for expressing medical care preferences and instructions, should you become mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to make or communicate decisions. Through a living will, you can state your medical care wishes while you're mentally able to do so, to avoid unwanted treatments and disputes between family members over your care. A health care power of attorney allows you to grant a trusted person, known as an agent, the authority to make medical and end-of-life care decisions on your behalf. This section provides articles and resources related to health care power of attorney and living will documents. For example, you'll find information on drafting a health care power of attorney, tips to help you choose a suitable agent, and sample health care directives that you can download.
Why Medical Care Planning is a Good Idea
It can be an awkward and uncomfortable topic. The issue of medical care should a person become mentally incapacitated, and discussions of a loved one's end-of-life choices, are difficult subjects for many people to approach. However, the risk of not having a medical care plan in place should be more concerning than the discomfort a discussion might cause. For example, if you don't have a plan in place, you may be subjected to unwanted, costly medical treatments, including ones that might be against your philosophical and/or religious views. Also, if you become incapacitated without a medical plan in place, well-intentioned family members and close friends may end up in ugly, heartwrenching disputes that occur as you lie in a hospital bed.
Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney?
By creating a living will, you provide medical and end-of-life care instructions that hospital and other health care personnel are obliged to follow (in most circumstances, and depending on the laws in your state). If you choose to create a health care power of attorney, you grant another person the legal authority to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf. Keep in mind that one option you have through a health care power of attorney is to provide specific instructions for your trusted agent to carry out. This option resembles a living will, with the added benefit of having an agent advocate for your interests. A second option you have through a health care power of attorney is to provide your agent with the flexibility to make medical decisions, so that he or she can decide on treatment options that are most aligned with your intentions. One benefit of agent flexibility is that he or she can make decisions that take into consideration the circumstances of your injury and your medical status.
States have different requirements when it comes to creating a health care power of attorney. As you begin to plan your medical care, it's important that you're informed about your state's power of attorney laws.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you have questions about a health care power of attorney, such as questions about procedural requirements or about your state's laws, a lawyer can help. He or she can also work with you to create a health care power of attorney that suits your needs and reflects your intentions. This section provides a link for consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.