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Do I need both a living will and a health care power of attorney?

A living will and a durable power of attorney for health care are two types of advance directives. They are both legal documents which you can use to help make your wishes for medical care known in the event you become unable to express them yourself. Because of the similarities, people sometimes wonder why they might need both documents in their estate plan.

How does a living will benefit me? 

Also called a health care directive, a living will is a document that allows you to explain to your doctors in writing what medical treatments you would or would not like to receive for certain conditions.

This document may be used if you become incapacitated or are otherwise unable to relay your wishes, yourself.

Durable power of attorney for health care

This document allows you to designate a trusted person, called an agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Like a living will, this document takes effect if you become incapacitated and can last until you are able to communicate your wishes again. However, you can terminate or reassign this duty at any time.

Complementary documents

A living will and a durable power of attorney are similar. However, having both can still be beneficial. In your living will, you can try to list your wishes for as many potential medical situations as possible.

Having an agent to make healthcare decisions for you can ensure that someone you trust can help if a condition that hasn't been accounted for occurs. Additionally, your agent would not be able to make decisions that conflict with your living will.

A lawyer can help with both

To discuss how you might go about adding these documents to your estate plan, consult with a skilled attorney for help.

A lawyer experienced in these matters can help you prepare to expect the unexpected by covering all of your bases and getting everything filed for you.

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