What is a Living Will?

Although they may seem similar on the surface, a living will and healthcare power of attorney are actually completely distinct from one another (although they are often interrelated). In order to highlight the differences, we’re going to talk about them separately, and then talk about how they can relate to one another. Only an experienced estate planning attorney can help you decide which is right for your unique situation.

The Living Will

A living will is a legal document that specifies how an individual’s healthcare is to be handled in the event that he or she is incapacitated to the point of requiring ongoing life-sustaining treatment in order to continue living. The living will only goes into effect when this condition is met, not simply when the principal is incapable of making healthcare decisions for his or herself. While it’s always advisable for a will of any form, it is especially important for a living will to be drafted under the supervision of an experienced lawyer. As many well know, end-of-life healthcare decisions can become especially fractious for families, and it’s important that the language of the living will be clear and that the provisions it outlines for specific treatment be incontrovertible.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

Healthcare power of attorney is a legal agreement reached between two individuals, where the first (the principal) grants the power to make healthcare-related decisions to the second (the healthcare agent). This power of attorney goes into effect when the principal is incapable of making such decisions for his or herself.

When this agreement is reached, it’s important that the principal carefully consider who they are granting this power to, as that person will have complete authority over the healthcare of the incapacitated principal. Moreover, once a qualified person has been selected to be the healthcare agent, that person should know exactly what the principal’s wishes would be with respect to different medical treatments. It may prove to be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but healthcare power of attorney is virtually worthless without it, as a healthcare agent cannot act in the principal’s best interests without this information.

How Living Wills and Healthcare Power of Attorney Relate to One Another

In almost every case, a living will should specify an individual who will have healthcare power of attorney. While the living will itself can be clear about what forms of end-of-life medical treatments will and won’t be acceptable, it cannot account for all eventualities before such drastic treatments come under consideration. In this interim period, it is important that there be an individual who can act on the incapacitated individual’s behalf. This being said, there are certain situations where an individual can elect to have one or the other.

Regardless of whether you have one, the other or both, there’s one important thing to consider: These legal agreements are only good if people know about them. So make sure that you’ve communicated the existence of your living will or healthcare power of attorney to your physicians and relatives. Also, in the state of Nevada, you can use the Attorney General’s Living Will Lockbox, which allows you to securely upload your living will so that it can be executed in the event that it needs to be.

If you have questions about Living Wills or Healthcare Power of Attorney, call the offices of Clear Counsel today.

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Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney


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