Power Of Attorney Vs. Living Will

Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will and Power of Attorney documents with gavel

As an estate planning attorney in Buffalo, NY, I have seen many clients who are confused about the differences between a power of attorney and a living will.  

Both are important legal documents that can help ensure your wishes are respected if you’re incapacitated or you die.  

In this blog, we’ll explore the key differences between these two legal instruments and their respective benefits under New York state laws. 

What is a last will and testament? 

Before we dive into the specifics of power of attorney and living wills, let’s first define a last will and testament. A last will and testament is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets will be distributed after his or her death. It is important to note that a last will and testament only becomes effective after the individual’s death and has no legal authority while he or she is living. 

What is a living will? 

A living will, also known as a healthcare proxy, is a legal document that outlines a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment if he or she becomes incapacitated and is unable to make medical decisions.  

This document allows you to specify which medical treatments you do or do not want to receive if you are unable to communicate your wishes. 

A healthcare proxy allows your proxy to make healthcare decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself. It also allows the proxy to refuse treatment if you are dying and there is no hope of recovery. 

What is a power of attorney? 

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows an individual, known as the principal, to grant another person, known as the agent, the authority to act on their behalf. This document can be limited to specific acts or powers, or it can grant the agent broad authority to act on the principal’s behalf in all matters. 

Key differences and benefits 

The key difference between a living will and a power of attorney is that a living will only takes effect if you become incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions for yourself, while a power of attorney can be used to make financial decisions on your behalf at any time. A power of attorney also can be used to designate someone to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated. 

It’s important to have both a living will and a power of attorney to ensure that your wishes are respected and your affairs are managed appropriately if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. Without these legal documents, your loved ones may be forced to go through a costly and time-consuming legal process to obtain the authority to manage your affairs. 

Sample estate plan 

Consider the case of an elderly woman named Mary who suffers a stroke and becomes unable to communicate her wishes. Mary has a living will that outlines her desire to receive only palliative care if she becomes incapacitated. However, Mary did not have a power of attorney in place, and her family is unsure of how to manage her finances and assets while she is incapacitated. As a result, they are forced to go through a lengthy and expensive legal process to obtain the authority to manage Mary’s affairs. 

Need help with an estate plan? Contact Norman Mattar. 

The Law Offices of Norman Mattar, in Buffalo, NY, can help you create a comprehensive estate plan that includes a last will and testament, living will, and power of attorney. Don’t wait until it’s too late to ensure that your wishes are respected and your loved ones taken care of. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and start planning for your future. Call 716-633-4300 today. 

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