At Dawes Legal, LLC, we enjoy being able to help educate clients on estate planning matters. Not only to we strive to help our clients create comprehensive estate plans that give them and their families peace of mind in the event of a sudden illness, incapacitating event, or sudden death, but we also help our clients understand the estate plan we develop with them. This includes explaining the different documents and tools that make up their estate plan and how they work together to achieve the client’s objectives.
Two Similar Documents with Two Different Purposes
Two documents frequently used in estate planning are the living will (or advance healthcare directive) and the power of attorney for healthcare decisions. These two documents can be confused with one another, and it is easy to see why:
- Both documents pertain to healthcare treatment and healthcare decisions
- Both documents are only in force during the creator’s lifetime
- Both documents only come into force if certain preconditions are met
The similarities end there, however. A living will and a power of attorney are both important for a comprehensive estate plan, and not knowing the differences between the two or how these two documents interact with one another can frustrate a person’s estate planning goals.
The Living Will – Directions for Terminal, End-of-Life Situations
The living will (or advance healthcare directive) is a document that tells medical providers what sort of life-sustaining treatment you want to receive. A living will:
- Only comes into effect if you are unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate with medical professionals and are facing a terminal illness or injury that will likely end in your death;
- Covers treatments and procedures designed to artificially prolong your life or restore your life;
- Can be changed at any time, so long as the creator is competent to do so; and
- Takes precedence over a healthcare power of attorney.
A living will would be appropriate if you do not want hospital staff to provide you with a blood transfusion, do not want to be resuscitated if you pass away, or do not want to be kept alive with a ventilator or other machines if you are determined to be “brain dead.”
The Healthcare Power of Attorney – Power to Another to Make Healthcare Decisions
A healthcare power of attorney is a document that designates a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you cannot make them yourself. A healthcare power of attorney:
- Can designate any person – a friend, family member, or other trusted individual – to make treatment decisions on your behalf if you cannot communicate your wishes and preferences yourself;
- Can cover any type of procedure or treatment , even those that are not in regard to a life-threatening situation or terminal illness;
- Cannot override a valid living will; and
- Can be modified so long as the creator is competent to do so.
Once a healthcare power of attorney goes into effect, it generally cannot be modified or terminated absent legal intervention. Thus, it is extremely important that the person designated to be your healthcare power of attorney is trustworthy and reliable.
Contact Dawes Legal, LLC for Additional Help
While estate planning may seem intimidating and confusing, with Dawes Legal, LLC by your side, it does not have to be. We work to understand your concerns and objectives and then help you understand the estate planning tools that are best suited for you. We not only help you by preparing and drafting the necessary documents, but we also help you understand how they work and how to make the best use of them. Call our Columbus office at (614) 733-9999 and set up a consultation with our Columbus estate planning team to start the process.