Living Wills Decide Who Will Make Decisions When You Can’t

Many people are wondering what they need in the way of legal documents to make certain that, in the event of incapacity, their wishes are known and followed regarding potential end-of-life decisions. Advance directives are a set of documents that are used to lay out a clear chain of command to give decisions makers guidance as to the individual’s wishes as they relate to the type of care desired in a crisis . It is a way to direct the decision maker about what an individual wants and does not want, should they be unable to make their wishes clear.


Unlike Wills, which deal with matters after the death of a person, advance directives are usually put to use before a person dies, and they are critical part of the estate planning process. The three most common advance directives that are typically drafted are a power of attorney for financial decisions, a power of attorney for health care and a Living Will.

A power of attorney for financial decisions names a person to handle financial matters on behalf of another individual. A financial power of attorney can be very broad in the power that it confers on an individual to make serious decisions regarding a principal’s assets.

A power of attorney for health care is similar in some ways to the power of attorney for financial decisions in that it also names a person to make decisions on behalf of someone else.

When executing a power of attorney for health care, an individual answers several questions in an attempt to make clearly exactly what kind of treatment they want, based on their medical condition.


A Living Will, in some ways duplicates the information in the power of attorney for health care, but unlike the power of attorney, which can also cover situations in which a person may recover but needs someone to make their medical decisions for a time, a Living Will is simply a directive stating that an individual does not want “heroic measures” to keep them alive when there is no realistic prospect of any meaningful recovery.

It is more important to give your loved ones the tools they need to deal with your incapacity (and even your passing) with the confidence that they are fulfilling your wishes.

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