The term “Living Will” is often confused, or used interchangeably, with a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. The two documents are not the same. Another question often asked is: what is the difference between a Living Will, and a Last Will and Testament? Think of it in these terms: when you are alive, powers of attorney, as well as living wills, are relevant. They become null and void when you die. Your Will, also known as your Last Will and Testament, then becomes the important document to follow.
So what is a Living Will? Also known as an “Advance Directive”, this document is an expression of the person’s wishes about health care, and usually addresses the desire to be kept alive, or not, by medical machines, and at what point to stop medical treatment. A Living Will does not need to name someone to carry out one’s wishes in this regard, and it is not an enforceable, binding document.
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a legal document in which you name a specific person, or persons, to make personal care decisions on your behalf in a broader respect, including decisions about health care and medical treatment, but it can also extend to areas of diet, housing, clothing, hygiene and safety. You can include your advance directive wishes in this document, if desired, with the added benefit of knowing who will be making those decisions for you if and when the time comes. Alternatively, since you have named someone, or more than one person, that you inherently trust as your attorney(s), you can leave it up to them to make these decisions for you as deemed fit and appropriate at the time required.
To conclude, you do not need a Living Will. It is strongly recommended that you instead have a Power of Attorney for Personal Care.