Demystifying Living Wills and Powers of Attorney

There may come a time in your life when you cannot advocate on your own behalf because of physical or mental restrictions. While it’s not pleasant to think about such a possibility, there is a way to prepare and get peace of mind. You can create a series of legal documents that express your wishes so that you have a measure of control over your future.

Living Wills

A living will or advance healthcare directive describes how you want your doctors to treat you. Medical advances have meant great improvements in our health and ability to live longer; there are also more cases in which a person can be kept alive by artificial means, including feeding tubes and mechanical respiration.

There are some emotional or religious impacts to this kind of treatment and, of course, there are financial implications as well. By writing down your preferences in this area, you can relieve your family of several burdens. They will not be forced to guess at your intentions and they can feel confident about your wishes to spend money on such treatment. Without that information, they may be forced to deal with guilt, crippling medical bills, or gut wrenching decisions about your health.

In other cases, a stranger may make decisions for you. Without a written directive and no way to elicit a response from you, a judge may enforce state law to determine your health care decisions. Those choices may, or may not, be what you want for yourself.

Power of Attorney

This document can seem scary because it gives some of your authority to another person. The designated man or woman can act on your behalf in private affairs, business, or other legal matters. However, if there comes a time when you cannot act on your behalf, there are likely to be financial issues that complicate your life and the lives of those who care about you.

The good news is that having a Power of Attorney actually reinforces your independence. You can chose exactly the authority you want to share, and with whom, using a legal tool called a durable power of attorney.

Appointment of a Health Care Agent

There are several factors than can render you unable to discuss your condition with your doctor—age, disease, accident, or even anesthesia during a medical procedure. You can elect a person to speak on your behalf when you are unable to do so by appointing a health care agent. Without an agent in place, doctors and hospital staff may be prohibited by law from discussing your care or condition with anyone, including your loved ones.

A power of attorney can work with a living will and the appointment of a health care agent to increase the control you have over your decisions, who acts on your behalf, and what will happen to you.

Furey, Donovan, Tracy & Daly, P.C. is available to answer your questions about these kinds of documents and match your needs to the right legal tools.