When you set up your estate plan to deal with future medical decisions, you have a few options. The two main ones are a living will and a power of attorney. You need to know the differences to find out which one is right for you.
If you use a power of attorney, you essentially turn your power to make medical decisions over to someone else. It’s probably going to be a spouse or an heir.
Say you have a stroke and you do not regain consciousness. Doctors want to know what type of treatment you prefer, if you want to stay on life support and things of this nature. These are patient decisions, but you have no way to communicate them. Your agent, who you named in the power of attorney, gets to make the decisions for you. You trust them to do what you would have wanted.
If you use a living will, you simply list out your decisions in advance. The document itself tells the medical professionals what they need to do. If there are treatments you never want, for instance, you can make a note of them.
Which is right for you? It all depends. If you have someone you trust enough, a power of attorney can be perfect. A living will is a bit more restricted since you may not be able to predict what your condition will be like. That said, you’re better off to have a living will than to leave family members and doctors guessing.
The key is simply to look into all of your options and decide how to proceed.