Estate Planning Basics: Comparing Powers of Attorney and Living Wills

No Time Like the Uncertain Present to Prepare for the Certain Future

While it is always the time to get your affairs in order, since putting off these important decisions can lead to financial and emotional pain for your survivors, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought mortality to the forefront of many minds and has brought home the urgency of planning for one’s end-of-life care.

In this article, we will review two legal tools available to you regarding end-of-life issues—and that you almost certainly should add to your “emergency envelope” for caregivers and next-of-kin. These two important documents are a living will and power of attorney.

Living Wills

In sum, a living will outline your wishes for your medical care in case you are unable to communicate those wishes while receiving treatment. Whether because of age, illness, or accident, there is likely to come a time when you need medical care but will not be able to consent or object to treatment. If you object to treatment on religious grounds, like blood transfusions, for example, you can be confident your wishes will be respected by medical professionals.

Living wills are often associated with, and can be especially focused on, end-of-life care. If for religious, philosophical, or other personal reasons you do not want to be put on a ventilator, or do not want life support to continue past the point of a reasonably expected recovery, you can specify this in a living will. Not only will you have peace of mind knowing that your wishes are clear and enforceable, but it will comfort your loved ones that they do not have to make these decisions for you. They will be able to grieve knowing that you lived and passed away on your own terms.

Powers of Attorney

While a living will provide for the future care of your physical body, designating power of attorney provides for the future care of your property and other assets. In this document, you will designate an individual as your “attorney-in-fact.” This person does not need to be your next-of-kin. It is especially important to designate power of attorney if you do not have or do not trust family members.

When you are incapacitated but still alive, this trusted individual will be able act on your behalf in a variety of ways, such as: buying and selling property on your behalf, accessing bank accounts, paying your bills, and making various other financial decisions.

Where Do I Begin?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, know that you’re not alone. We are here to discuss your specific needs and hopes for your future, including end-of-life preparation. Call our office today to schedule a consultation to get started.

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