A Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, or Do I Need Both?

living willMany people in Council Bluffs, IA assume that the only essential aspect of estate planning is organizing the disposition of property after death. Drafting a last will and testament is an important part of planning for end of life, but there are other estate planning documents. An Iowa estate planning attorney will advise clients that several documents are recommended. These documents include the delegation of medical decisions, including end of life decisions.

Do You Want a Living Will?

Having a living will is an entirely personal choice.  However, most people do want a living will.  A declaration relating to life-sustaining procedures is commonly known as a “living will.”  It allows a doctor to withhold or withdraw procedures (for example, use of a ventilator) which only prolong the dying process.  It is effective when a person has an incurable or irreversible condition that will result in death in a short period of time or if a person is in a state of permanent unconsciousness from which there can be no recovery.  If the situation arises and there is no living will, then such decisions can be directed by a person with a medical power of attorney and if none, then a guardian, and if none, then certain family members.  If a person has executed a living will it relieves other family members from having to make such a very difficult decision.

Do You Need a Health Care Power of Attorney? Yes.

A health care power of attorney (POA) is an entirely different document from a living will.  Your health care POA names the trusted individual you want to make medical decisions in the event you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to do so.  In Iowa, the loved one you name in your durable POA is called an attorney-in-fact.

An attorney-in-fact can make medical decisions for you only if you are unable to do so yourself.  The medical power of attorney can be revoked at any time.  Generally, a close family member is chosen to act as the attorney-in-fact under a medical power of attorney.

Is Having a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney Best? Yes.

A living will and health care POA work best when drafted in tandem. It is possible to have one document, without the other, but that isn’t ideal. For example, without a health care POA, there is no one to enforce the decisions and directives in your living will. Conversely, without a living will, your attorney-in-fact is left to make major medical decisions that may or may not be aligned with your wishes.

Irrespective of age, physical condition, and medical history adults in Council Bluffs, IA should have both a living will and health care POA. If you do not have these estate planning documents, speak with a local lawyer, such as Jack E. Ruesch at Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP.

At Telpner Peterson, our legal team handles all manner of estate planning and probate matters. These include wills, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, and of course, health care documents, such as the living will and health care POA. Visit our website to learn more about our estate planning practice in Council Bluffs and how to contact our office.

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