When you think of estate planning, the foremost issue that comes to mind is the division and distribution of the estate to surviving heirs and beneficiaries. You may create a living trust where you can transfer your property and assets, and then name your trust beneficiaries. You can also draft a will that details your final wishes. However, you should also consider planning for when you are still alive but no longer of sound mind and body. What are your desired medical directives? Will you list them in a living will or assign someone a durable power of attorney?
How does a living will differ from a durable power of attorney?
A living will is a legal document that establishes your advance directives. These are your instructions for medical treatment when you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. The living will should include the following:
- Your resuscitation orders
- If your physician will use extraordinary measures to try to prolong life, such as using ventilators and dialysis machines
- If you will ingest food through tube feeding when you can no longer chew or swallow
- If you want palliative care or comfort care
- Whether you will be an organ donor
The living will can give your family and/or physician the authority to withhold any life-sustaining treatment and allow you to die naturally. It can also tell them to sustain your life by any means necessary. Unlike a living will, a durable or medical power of attorney gives your loved one or family member the power or legal authority to make health care and medical decisions for you regardless of your wishes. In Ohio, a durable power of attorney only comes into effect when your attending physician determines you can no longer make informed health care decisions for yourself.
You can have the best of both
It can be difficult to discuss such issues, especially when you are premediating your impaired physical and mental state. But you can address these life-or-death situations now while you are still capable. You can give someone the power to decide for you on health care matters and draft a living will that ensures they uphold your life-sustaining wishes.