A well-meaning family member or even your doctor may advise you to create a living will to document your wishes for your care if you are unable to make treatment decisions for yourself. However, while a living will is a legally binding document that will be respected by caregivers if you become incapacitated, the estate planning attorneys at Littlejohn Law recommend that you instead draft a healthcare power of attorney.
Why Is a Healthcare Power of Attorney Better Than a Living Will?
A living will declaration is a simple document that is often available as a free, fill-in-the-blank form. In Ohio, a living will does the following:
- Documents your wish that life-sustaining treatment be either administered or withheld if you are unable to make informed medical decisions. If you indicate that you want treatment to be withheld, this document effectively serves as a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.
- Indicates if you wish to donate your organs.
- Provides the names of people you would like to be contacted in the event of your death.
Under Ohio law, a living will declaration is applicable only to individuals in a terminal condition or a permanently unconscious state.
What this document cannot do is take into account the specific circumstances of your illness or incapacity. A healthcare power of attorney, on the other hand, is a much more flexible option. With this document, you designate a trusted person, known as the agent, to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. The advantages of this option include the following:
- Your agent can assess your current situation and, in consultation with medical professionals, make decisions about your care.
- You do not have to be in a terminal condition or permanent unconsciousness in order for your agent to make decisions.
- You can make your wishes known and give additional instructions regarding organ donation, end-of-life care, and more in the healthcare power of attorney document.
Healthcare powers of attorney allow for better decisions to be made on your behalf and are most effective when you discuss and update your wishes with your agent when you are healthy.
Talk to Our Team About Your Options
Regardless of your age or the current condition of your health, we recommend including a healthcare power of attorney in your comprehensive estate plan. When we meet to discuss your plan, we will be happy to explain the limitations of a living will and the benefits of a healthcare power of attorney. Fill out the form on this page or call our office to talk to a member of our team today. It's never the wrong time to think about your estate plan!