A living will vs. an advance directive

When you’re making an estate plan, it’s important to consider your medical wishes in the future. Estate planning is not all about financial assets. You may become incapacitated and you need to have some sort of medical plan in place.

When you do this, you create an advanced directive. There are multiple options to do this, but two of the most common are a living will and a power of attorney. Let’s take a quick look at how these are different and the advantages they provide.

A living will

When you set up a living will, you’re essentially just giving instructions to your hypothetical medical team. Often, people define the types of medical care that they do not want. For example, maybe you do not want to be kept alive on life support. If you’re incapacitated, you know that you can’t express this wish to the doctors. Putting it in a living will gives them some guidance regarding the type of care that you want or do not want.

A power of attorney

If you use a power of attorney, you do not define the medical care that you want. Instead, you choose an agent and you give them the legal power to make your decisions for you. Ordinarily, this person would not have the legal ability to make medical choices. But you can set up the power of attorney so that it kicks in if you become incapacitated, and then you know that someone you trust will make your decisions in real time.

No matter which document you would like to use, it’s important to know what legal steps you can take to set it up in advance and get everything in place.

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