Power of Attorney v. Medical Directives

Knowing the difference between a power of attorney and an advance medical directive is key to planning your estate. Below we explain a few key differences.

Power of Attorney & Medical Directives

When it comes to your future, planning for your overall interest and physical well-being is essential. Knowing your options is a practical step towards securing an estate plan that best suits your needs – both as a property owner, and as a human being.

You assign who inherits your property, but have you thought about who will take care of you when you need it most? Do you know your medical and management options in case you fall ill, or are incapacitated?

Luckily, there are a couple of options for you to consider.

Power of Attorney

You grant power of attorney to allow someone to act in your name. In your power of attorney you may designate an “agent.”

The agent you designate in your power of attorney is known as a fiduciary. If the agent accepts power of attorney, your agent is legally bound to act in your best interest.

One common estate planning strategy is to designate someone to act as power of attorney to manage your healthcare if you fall ill, and to help ensure your estate plans are carried out.

Medical Directives

Your medical directive is another document established specifically for making medical decisions. Medical directives act independently of your power of attorney.

An advance medical directive for healthcare allows you to establish your wishes regarding tough medical decisions in advance. Therefore, there is less confusion and strife in the event that you become incapacitated and your medical directive becomes an active agent in your medical care.

The designated individual of your medical directive is responsible for many medical welfare actions, including:

  • Making medical decisions
  • Ensuring you are receiving the proper courses of treatment for your case
  • When necessary, making medical decisions that are not explicitly covered by the directive (if the decision is in your best interest)
  • Hiring/firing physicians on legal or medical grounds

Power of Attorney v. Medical Directives

Unlike granting power of attorney, which can grant your agent wide administrative powers, your medical directive deals solely with decisions surrounding your health care. In this document you make clear your wishes regarding regarding life support, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, or artificial feeding. You also grant power to a patient advocate to make sure your wishes are respected.

Consulting with your physician on these issues is helpful for establishing which decisions are right for you.

Remember: your power of attorney agent makes decisions on your behalf that are in your best interest, while your medical directive instructs how you should be medically treated in case of incapacity. Both documents act independently of one another, but your designated agent in each document should be in communication to pursue your overall best interest.

It is also common to designate the same person as agent in both the power of attorney and your advance medical directive.

Conclusion

Planning for your future and your health is essential to your estate plan. Choosing the right person – and legally declaring your decisions – are vital in how you are cared for medically. Ensure your estate plan by scheduling a consultation with our estate planning attorney today.

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