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The Importance of Creating a Healthcare Power of Attorney

Elderly patientAs a part of your estate planning, one of the most important documents you can put in place is what is known as a healthcare power of attorney. A power of attorney simply gives another person the legal authority to act on your behalf. A healthcare power of attorney designates who will make medical decisions for you if you are incapable of making them yourself. You can set up the healthcare power of attorney so that it automatically goes into effect under certain circumstances, or you can require that you be declared incompetent before its provisions are enforceable.

The Difference between a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will

Though both documents address similar circumstances, they generally serve different functions. With a health care power of attorney, you are conveying the legal authority to make medical decisions to another person. You may have spoken with that person in advance or even provided them with specific instructions regarding the types of treatment you do or do not want, but that information is generally not in the power of attorney. The power of attorney usually transfers the authority to make the decision, but does not specify what the decision must be. Accordingly, the person receiving the power of attorney has some discretion regarding the care you will receive.

A living will, on the other hand, provides direction to medical personnel. It specifies that you do not want to be resuscitated, for example, or that you don’t want any artificial life support to be used. It may state that certain types of pharmaceutical products are not to be used, or that certain surgical procedures may not be performed. It does not convey the authority to make your medical decisions to any other person, but simply expresses your desires with respect to the type of care you receive.

The Importance of Having a Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney can be a great gift to your loved ones. Without one, your family and friends can (with the best of intentions) have serious disagreements about what treatment is best for you. Without a power of attorney, there may be no one with legal authority to make the decision.

Contact Aronberg, Kouser, Snyder & Lindemann, P. A., Attorneys at Law

At Aronberg, Kouser, Snyder & Lindemann, P. A., we have more than 35 years of experience helping people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Contact us by e-mail or call our office at 856-429-1700. Your initial consultation is free.

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