Living wills and health care power of attorney
Most people want to know that they will be taken care of if they are injured, but they also tend to have a preference for how they are treated. In many cases, people are able to communicate their wishes on their own, but what happens if they are not able to do so?
There are legal arrangements that allow people to specify exactly how they want to be cared for (or not cared for) in the event they are for some reason made incapable of communicating their health care preferences on their own. However, even if they have specified how they want to be cared for, someone still has to be responsible for making those wishes are carried out properly.
What is a living will?
Unlike a last will and testament, a living will not distribute property or clarify inheritances. It will, however, tell people exactly what type of medical care you want and how you want it carried out. Living wills are made up so that your wishes can be known even if you have been somehow debilitated.
Even if you have a living will, you will most likely need to choose someone you trust, known as an agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf. This is known as health care power of attorney.
Power of attorney
When you give someone power of attorney, you are just giving them the ability to make legal decisions on your behalf. A power of attorney itself is a legal document. There are several types of power of attorney, but when it comes to medical decisions, you need a durable health care power of attorney.
Durable health care power of attorney
Naming an agent to have a durable health care power of attorney means that they can legally make medical decisions on your behalf (health care power of attorney) if you lack the capacity to communicate your wishes on your own (durable).
It should be noted that you can also have a financial power of attorney. It is suggested that you do not give one person both financial and health care power of attorney because it can lead to some conflicts of interest, but an agent should always be someone you trust (sometimes literally) with your life.
Because there are so many factors involved, these types of issues can quickly get complicated. If you are considering drafting a living will and naming people as your agents, it is highly recommended that you seek out the assistance of a legal professional who has experience in this area of law.