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Living wills vs. healthcare power of attorney

The living will and the healthcare power of attorney are two different aspects to your estate plan, even though they have similar functions. They are distinct however, and they both serve incredibly important functions. So what are they and why should you care about the differences between the two?

Let's start with living wills. The purpose of the living will is to clearly define what to do and what to avoid in case a given scenario arises and you, as the grantor, are unable to make a decision or communicate a decision. For example, if you are in a coma, how should you be treated? There is no way for you to communicate that, so your living will dictates how that goes.

"But what happens if a medical scenario occurs that isn't explicitly defined in the living will?" This is an excellent question, and it leads us to the other part of our post: the power of attorney for healthcare. The power of attorney for healthcare is a right that you grant someone to make decisions about your healthcare in case you can't communicate it. This power can be as broad as you would like or as specific as you like -- but it is important to clearly define the scope of the power of attorney.

Given the importance of these two elements of your estate plan, it is essential to discuss these matters with your family as well as with an experienced attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Living Wills," Accessed Dec. 20, 2017

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