Advance directives include Living Wills and Powers of Attorney. They direct what should happen to you if you were to become ill or otherwise incapacitated. They allow you to express your wishes. They also allow you to designate other people to act on your behalf in certain situations. Anyone who is of sound mind and over the age of 18 may create an advance directive.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document delegating authority from one person (the principal) to another (the attorney in fact) granting that person the right to act on behalf of the maker of the Power of Attorney. What authority is granted depends on the specific language of the Power of Attorney. A person appointing a Power of Attorney can make it very broad or can limit the Power of Attorney to certain specific acts. The Power of Attorney can be for either health care decisions or financial decisions. It can also be durable or non-durable. Durable Powers of Attorney remain in effect if the maker becomes incapacitated, whereas non-durable Powers of Attorney do not. A Power of Attorney is an important and powerful legal document and a person should consult with their lawyer to decide on which type of Power of Attorney is best for them.
Any competent person over the age of 18 may serve as your attorney in fact. The attorney in fact can perform only those tasks that you lay out in your Power of Attorney form.
A Living Will informs your physician of your preferences or wishes regarding life-sustaining measures to be used when you are in a persistent vegetative state. The life-sustaining measures mentioned in the living will include treatments or machines that keep your heart, lungs, or kidneys functioning when they are unable to do so on their own. A living will only goes into effect when two physicians, one of whom is your attending physician, agree in writing that you are either near death or are in a persistent vegetative state that cannot be reversed and are unable to understand or express your health care choices.
What is the Difference between a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will?
A Living Will goes into effect only when your death is imminent or when you are in a persistent vegetative state and you have lost the ability to make medical decisions. It deals only with the use or non-use of life sustaining measures. A Power of Attorney for health care goes into effect when you are incapacitated and can no longer make decisions regarding your health care; however you do not have to be close to death or in a persistent vegetative state.
The Power of Attorney for Health Care also allows another person to speak for you and make health care decisions for you. The type of decisions this person can make depends upon how you complete the form.
Please contact our office to schedule your no charge initial consultation to discuss your advance planning options.