How is a power of attorney different from a living will?

New York estate planning experts often recommend that you establish both a power of attorney and a living will. The two documents are similar to one another in that they both pertain to end-of-life issues and how your health care will proceed in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make such decisions for yourself. 

According to FindLaw, when you give someone a  power of attorney , you authorize that person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. You may choose to set limits on your power of attorney, allowing your attorney-in-fact to make only certain decisions in regard to your medical care, or you can grant them broad authority to handle any issue that arises in regard to your end-of-life decisions. While individual documents may vary, the decision powers typically granted to someone with a power of attorney include the ability to make decisions in regard to the following:

  • Doctors you can see
  • Medical facilities where you can receive treatment
  • Going to court over what medical treatment you will receive
  • Handling of your body following your death

However, a living will takes precedence over even the most comprehensive power of attorney. In the event that you become mentally incapacitated, permanently unconscious or suffer a debilitating injury, your living will document specifies the medical care that you wish to receive. Conversely, you may also specify which, if any, treatments you do not want to receive in the event of your incapacitation. For example, you may wish to receive palliative or comfort care so that you do not suffer pain at the end of your life, and at the same time, you may also issue a do-not-resuscitate directive that specifies that you do not wish to receive CPR in the event that you stop breathing and/or your heart stops beating. 

While your attorney-in-fact has the authority to make health care decisions for you under your power of attorney, under no circumstances can he or she make a decision that violates the wishes you express in your living will.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

The following two tabs change content below.
How is a power of attorney different from a living will?

Ledwidge & Associates

Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. in New York City has years of experience helping clients create estate plans that fit their needs. We have the experience and resources to handle your critical legal matters with the utmost care and attention to detail.