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Though it contains the word "will," the fact is that living wills have nothing to do with the distribution of property after death.
Alone or combined, these two documents allow you to plan for your medical needs should you no longer be able to make decisions for yourself.
Because both documents detail how your medical care is to be handled in the event that you become incapacitated, some states combine the advance directive and durable power of attorney into one document. However, it's important to understand the purpose behind each separate set of instructions.
An advance directive is usually a set of instructions detailing your wishes at the end of your life. It describes acceptable and unacceptable life-sustaining treatments, such as artificial ventilation and nutrition, and may instruct caretakers as to where you would like to spend your final days. For example, here's a sample Living Will Directive to Physicians.
Because an advance directive is broad and only deals with big decisions, states have created the durable power of attorney.
In its most basic form, a durable power of attorney is a legal document that grants a third party the ability to make your medical decisions.
Though it can be limited to certain conditions, or include specific instructions, its purpose is to guarantee that spur-of-the-moment medical decisions are made with consideration of your needs and wishes. You can click here for a sample Health Care Power of Attorney.
As you can see, if you have specific wishes about your end-of-life care, both an advance directive and durable power of attorney are important documents to have. While you can certainly draft your own documents, it's often wise to consult an attorney to ensure that your decisions will be respected.