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Health Care Directives & Medical Power of Attorney

What is a Health Care Directive/Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney?

A Health Care Directive (commonly called a Living Will) provides medical personnel and your family with direction as to which end-of-life medical treatments ("End of Life Directives") you want to have administered if you cannot communicate your requests. Examples of such End of Life Directives include whether you want food, water and/or pain medication administered if your condition is terminal. A living will typically includes a medical power of attorney that designates an individual to make medical decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. Such decisions include all medical decisions other than the End-of-Life Directives.

Why are they important?

A living will and medical power of attorney isn't always necessary, i.e., state law typically recognizes a spouse as being able to make decisions for the incapacitated spouse or a parent as being able to make decisions for a minor child. But, in the absence of a spouse or parent/minor child relationship, and even sometimes despite one, hospitals may be unwilling to recognize your spouse, children, siblings, parent or friends as having the power to make decisions for you. In such circumstances, the absence of living will and medical power of attorney may result in litigation, delayed decision making and family discord as to what decisions should be made and who should make them.

What is the difference between a medical power of attorney and a financial power of attorney?

A medical power of attorney gives an individual the ability to make medical decisions for you; a financial power of attorney gives an individual the ability to make financial decisions for you. Both types of power of attorney may be durable or springing. A durable power of attorney is effective when signed. A springing power of attorney only comes into effect upon the occurrence of an event set forth in the document, e.g., the certification by one (or two) physicians of your incompetency. Both types of power of attorney lapse upon your death.

Why is a financial power of attorney important?

A financial power of attorney is important if you are incapacitated and have no one else who is legally recognized as being able to act in your place. If you have bills to pay, assets that need to be sold, invested, or managed, contracts that need to be signed to keep a business going or any other of a multitude of financial and even legal decisions that need to be made in your absence, then a financial power of attorney is very important to provide continuity until you recover. For more information see our white paper on "Financial Power of Attorney".

How We Can Help You?

Mathieu, Ranum & Allaire, PLLC prepares Health Care Directives Wills and Medical Powers of Attorneys for our clients as a part of every estate plan.

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