Understanding Living Will and Power of Attorney Documents

Jodee Redmond
A living will is an important legal document.

Your living will and power of attorney documents are an important part of your estate planning. A trusted family member or friend should know where these forms are kept, should they be needed.

Living Will Basics

A living will sets out your wishes regarding medical treatment if you sustain a severe injury or are terminally ill. It directs your doctor to refrain from using extraordinary measures to keep you alive if there is no reasonable hope of recovery. The living will can also be used to direct the physician to withhold or withdraw a feeding tube or artificial hydration being used to keep you alive.

It's very important that your your wishes be clearly stated in the living will. Set out exactly which measures you consent or do not consent to being taken. You also need to state under which conditions you want these measures taken. For example, you may only want the provisions of the living will being taken if you are in a vegetative state or have been diagnosed with an incurable or terminal illness.

The laws with respect to living wills vary from state to state. A living will signed in one state may not be valid in another one. If you spend part of the year away from home, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney in the state you are visiting to find out whether you need to sign another living will.

A living will should be signed in front of two witnesses. The witnesses should not be relatives, people named in your will, your doctor, or any of your doctor's staff members. In addition, the living will should be notarized.

Discuss the contents of your living will with your family and give a family member a signed copy. It's a good idea for your doctor to have a signed living will as well.

Understanding the Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document giving one person the authority to act on another person's behalf. It can be set up to designate an agent to make decisions for someone who has become incompetent due to illness or injury.

A power of attorney can also granted for a specific situation, such as when someone will be away from home for an extended period of time. The individual designates an agent to perform certain tasks on the donor's behalf.

The power of attorney should be dated and signed in front of witnesses. This document should also be notarized.

Finding Sample Documents

Living will and power of attorney documents can be drawn up by an attorney. If the situation is complicated, it's a good idea to get professional legal advice. For those people who are unwilling or unable to pay for an attorney, pre-printed forms can be found at a number of retail locations.

You can find many of the necessary living will and power of attorney documents online through the following sites:

Additionally, some office supply stores have packets of legal forms suitable for drafting up for your attorney's review or notarization.

Understanding Living Will and Power of Attorney Documents