If you’re thinking about your future health decisions, understanding that you may not be able to make them for yourself in a critical moment, your first thought may be that you want to leave some instructions for the medical team. You can do this through a living will or another type of advance directive.
Essentially, you can spell out the type of care that you want – and that you don’t want – and then your medical team can get their instructions from that document if you’re incapacitated due to a stroke, a degenerative brain disease or some other issue.
This can be helpful, and you’re wise to consider it, but there are some benefits to using a power of attorney instead (or in conjunction with an advance directive).
How does a power of attorney work?
A medical power of attorney is different than other types of advance directives because you don’t leave the instructions themselves. Instead, you note who you would like to be your agent, putting them in charge of making your decisions in real time. You then talk with them about what you would want, but you trust them to make these decisions when necessary.
The big advantage is that this is a lot more flexible. They can address the situation as it develops, they can consider unique details that you may not have anticipated and they can make the best decision based on your doctor’s advice and advances in medical technology. You can’t always predict everything, so leaving instructions may not go far enough. A power of attorney bridges this gap.
Creating your estate plan
A power of attorney is an important part of your estate plan, so make sure you know what steps to take to get everything in place.