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Planning For The Future

Understanding Power of Attorney and Living Will Documents

An individual can execute documents in order that, should they become unable to make decisions for themselves in the future, someone else will legally be able to make health and financial decisions for them.  An ordinary Power of Attorney document no longer functions when the person who signed it becomes incompetent.  A “Durable” Power of Attorney document, however, allows another person to act on their behalf even if the principal is unable to make his or her own decisions.  These documents are essential because individuals suffering from dementia or other forms of memory or mental deficits.  Three documents should be considered, including a Durable Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and a Living Will Directive.

Durable Power of Attorney – It is as simple and painless as signing a legal document naming who you would like to take care of your financial decisions.  There are no hearings or court proceedings required.  If you become incapacitated and have not created a Durable Power of Attorney, it will be necessary for someone to go to court to be legally able to conduct your affairs.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – It allows someone else to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you loose your capacity.  In this controversial society, few hospitals wish to take on the responsibility of determining your health care decisions for you.  Thus, to ensure that your wishes are honored, this document is essential.  In addition, it helps your doctors honor your health care decisions, if you are unable to state them because of incapacitation.  Telling the person you have named as you health care surrogate will enable you to receive, or more importantly not receive, certain treatments if you cannot express your desires.

Living Will Directive – It is a declarative statement, allowing you to express your wishes about the type of health care you wish to receive.  A Living Will Directive specifies the treatment you want, or decline to accept, in a legally binding document.  Health care professionals treating you are not required to search for or ask about a signed Directive.  Therefore, it is important to be sure family, friends, your doctor and your Eldercare Specialist know you have one and where it can be found.

A special thanks to Virginia Rice, Attorney At Law with The Rice Law Firm.  For more information, call 314-963-0877 or visit their website: