Life or Death Decisions: Power of Attorney for Health Care v. Living Will

estate-planning

Do you know the difference between a Living Will and a Power of Attorney for Health Care? The difference is extremely important to know when it comes to your estate plan and making sure you’re putting power in the right hands.

There are two fundamental differences between a Power of Attorney for Health Care[1] and a Living Will[2]:

  1. The Decision Maker
  • In a Power of Attorney for health care, YOU APPOINT someone you know to make health care decisions for you.
  • In a Living Will the decision maker is your attending physician (who you may or may not know).
  1. The Subject Matter
  • A Power of Attorney for Health Care authorizes the holder to make decisions regarding your medical care, treatment, service, or procedure to maintain, diagnose, or treat an individual’s physical or mental condition; including the use or withdrawal of life sustaining procedures.
  • A Living Will authorizes an attending physician to withhold life sustaining procedures if you have an incurable or irreversible condition that will result either in death within a relatively short period of time or a state of permanent unconsciousness from which, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty(as confirmed by another attending physician), there can be no recovery.
  • The authority of the appointee of a Power of Attorney for Health Care is much more broad than a living will, but includes the same authority as that granted to the attending physician in a living will.

At Kreamer Law Firm, P.C., we recommend that our clients have a Power of Attorney for Health Care, but NOT a living will. This is because:

  • The overlap of authority between the two holders could create a conflict between the person you appoint and your attending physician. By having only one document you have only one decision maker.
  • The best person to make these decisions is someone you appoint (and therefore trust) to make these decisions, since you may not even know who is your attending physician at the time a decision is necessary.
  • Although they make these decisions all the time, we feel that this places an undue burden on the attending physician, who is tasked with providing you the best health care possible in EVERY situation.

Contact the Kreamer Law Firm, P.C. at 515-727-0900 or sikjdcpa@kreamerlaw.com if we can be of assistance in your estate planning.

[1] Iowa Code Section 144A

[2] Iowa Code Section 144B

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