Living Will declaration

Understanding a Living Will and It’s Importance: The Distinction from Durable Power of Attorney

Living wills and durable power of attorney are both legal instruments that your attorney can incorporate with your estate plan to help you make end-of-life decisions, which are choices and actions that individuals make or that are made on their behalf when they are facing terminal illness, critical medical conditions, or the end stages of life. These decisions often involve medical, ethical, and emotional considerations.

End-of-life decisions are deeply personal and often involve discussions with healthcare providers, family members, and legal professionals to ensure that one’s wishes are understood and respected. The decisions involve the individual facing the end of their life, their loved ones, and healthcare providers. During this critical phase, the primary objective is to ensure that the individual’s wishes, values, and preferences are clearly understood and honored. 

Legal professionals are routinely consulted to provide guidance on legal matters related to end-of-life decisions. They can assist with the creation of living wills and durable power of attorney, ensuring that the individual’s wishes are legally documented and enforceable. 

These discussions surrounding end-of-life decisions are not necessarily confined to a single conversation. They are ongoing and may evolve over time as the individual’s condition changes and their preferences shift. It is essential to maintain open channels of communication and allow for ongoing discussions that promote understanding, respect, and dignity for the individual as they navigate this profound and deeply personal journey. 

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a legal document that outlines a person’s preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care if they cannot communicate or make decisions for themselves. It is a type of advance healthcare directive that helps ensure that a person’s wishes are respected and followed when facing serious illness, incapacitation, or the end stages of life. It is often used in conjunction with a trust. It can provide peace of mind for individuals and family members. For example, if a person gets into a car accident and ends up in a coma with no chance of recovery, that person may not want to spend an extended period of time being kept alive. They can specify their decision in a living will. Similarly, if they wish to have extended services, they can indicate that as well.  

What is a Durable Power of Attorney? 

A durable power of attorney is a legal instrument that grants someone else, the agent, the authority to make decisions on behalf of another person, known as the principal. The term durable indicates that the authority granted remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated or mentally incompetent. A power of attorney is often used to give someone authority to manage your financial affairs and would not apply if the principal lost capacity.  

It is advisable for individuals to engage in open and honest conversations with loved ones and healthcare professionals to make informed decisions that align with their values and preferences. After this process, or during them, if questions arise, an attorney can take the preferences of the individual and process a living will or durable power of attorney that respects those preferences.  

Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney 

The major difference is that a durable power of attorney for health care designates a person to act as your healthcare decision-maker, while a living will, or advanced healthcare directive outlines your specific healthcare preferences and treatment choices. The durable power of attorney, likewise, can outline other powers that the agent can hold on behalf of the principal, such as financial decision-making. 

Both living wills and powers of attorney can be revoked or modified. There are different legal requirements to modify or revoke each type of legal instrument. A legal professional can help explain what the requirement are and how to execute them. After the legal steps are taken to do so, the outdated documents should be marked clearly as revoked and the latest versions made accessible to household members or family if they are needed.   

Protecting your Wealth, Well-being, and Assets during Difficult Times 

During times of both stability and crisis, the value of well-informed counsel from seasoned legal professionals cannot be overstated. Our skilled attorneys offer a range of planning instruments and legal tools to ensure healthcare preferences are respected, preserve and foster estate growth, direct assets to your chosen beneficiaries, and mitigate potential risks.   

We are pleased to offer our assistance by answering your questions, providing legal guidance, reviewing your estate plan, and undertaking any tasks that may facilitate your progress toward this important milestone. We invite you to contact the trusted estate planning attorneys at Lowthorp Richards by calling (805) 981-8555 or by completing our online contact form. Our attorneys are primarily based in and serve the California Tri-Counties area, including Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. 

NOTE: The information contained herein is not intended to be legal advice and the reader should know that no Attorney-Client relationship or privilege is formed by the posting or reading of this article which is also not intended to solicit business.

Cristian R. Arrieta, Lowthorp Richards McMillan Miller & Templeman, A Professional Corporation, 300 E. Esplanade Drive Suite 850, Oxnard, CA 93036