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Living Will & Medical Power of Attorney: Same or Different?

Happy 2019! As you establish your New Year’s resolutions to get healthy, lose weight, stop smoking, get a better job, etc., take time to plan for your future. Creating a will or trust is something that every adult should do – regardless of how wealthy you are. It’s a way to protect your assets, large or small, and make sure your possessions go to the people you love most.

Although we don’t like thinking about “what ifs,” the New Year is also a great time to put plans into place in case of a medical emergency. We’re talking about mental or physical debilitations that will make it difficult or impossible for you to express your medical care preferences. There are two different legal documents/designations that can be drafted – well in advance of any type of medical situation – that will provide different levels of direction and protection for potential end-of-life situations:

  • Living will
  • Medical Power of Attorney

What is a Living Will?

A living will document allows you to specify exactly how you would want medical treatment if you have a terminal condition but you were unable to express your life-sustainment wishes. Without this document in place, your family members will have to make unthinkable decisions for you such as starting/ending life support, approving resuscitation methods, installing tube feeding or any other type of medical situation where doctors must administer medical intervention to keep you alive. You can state what type of care you want (or do not want) and for how long. Your family and physicians should know your wishes in advance so there are no surprises if anything should happen.

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

An agent under medical power of attorney is a person that you choose specifically to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. If you have not created a living will, this person assumes the responsibility of deciding if, how or when to extend your life using any medical intervention they feel is right for the situation. This can include withholding treatment indefinitely. It is not required, but recommended, that you inform the person you are choosing to be your medical power of attorney. Again, this is to avoid surprises and ensure the person carries out your wishes.

If you do not have these safeguards in place, it will be up to your surviving family members to make these unfathomable decisions for you. Because these are highly emotional situations, it is very possible that one set of family members will have one point of view to do everything possible while a different side of the family wants to end the suffering. It is all too common for deep family rifts to occur in these situations.

It’s not very uplifting to think about serious medical situations – especially in the New Year – but your proactivity in these matters will certainly give you and your loved ones peace of mind for the future. At The Brown Law Firm, LLC, we hope none of our clients ever have to utilize these documents, but we certainly want to help them prepare in advance. If you would like to create a Colorado living will or medical power of attorney in Denver, contact our Denver estate planning lawyers at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.