Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

A living will vs. a power of attorney

Estate planning may start with assets and inheritances, but do not assume that's all you need. You also want to plan for your health care needs in the future.

You may not be able to predict what the future will hold, but you can still put a plan in place. There are two main documents you can use to do this:

A health care power of attorney

A power of attorney turns your legal right to make health care decisions over to a third party if you cannot make those decisions on your own.

For instance, you may choose your oldest child as your agent. If you then have a stroke and go into a coma, your child gets to decide what type of medical care you should get, if the doctors should keep you on life support and things of this nature. By picking a loved one and talking with him or her about what you want, you can help ensure that the medical team follows your desires, even when you can't communicate them directly.

A living will

A living will also tells the medical team what to do -- for example, if you want them to resuscitate you after a heart attack, if you want them to use feeding tubes and if you'd like to be kept alive on life support -- the document itself is their guide. It answers their questions about your desires and makes your preferences known.

Both of these documents are very important parts of the estate planning process. As you make a will and get everything else in order, be sure you consider your health care options.

Source: WebMD, "Advance Directives," accessed May 25, 2018

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