Power of Attorney vs. Advanced Health Care Directive

One question I often get asked is: What is the difference between a power of attorney and an advanced health care directive?

A power of attorney is a document that gives someone the ability to make decisions during your lifetime. The person you appoint to make decisions is called the attorney in fact. The attorney in fact can make health care decisions or financial decisions depending on the scope of your power of attorney. Health care decisions can include which treatments or procedures should be carried out, which medication to take and where to receive treatment. Financial decisions can include managing your monthly income and expenses or selling or buying property. A power of attorney typically will come into effect when you have been declared incompetent whether permanently or temporarily. When you become competent again the power of attorney will no longer be in effect. You can also make a power of attorney effectively right when you sign it. Often people will do this when they are leaving the country for an extended period of time and are unable to manage their financial affairs.

An advanced health care directive is a directive to your physicians stating whether or not you want life support. Typically, if two physicians declare you to be in a terminal state, the advanced health care directive will become effective. This will inform your physicians whether you want artificial hydration or nutrition. The purpose of this document is to ensure that your wishes are carried out as to whether you would like to be kept alive by all means possible if you are in a terminal state or if you want to die a natural death.

If you have any further questions concerning a power of attorney or a health care directive in Washington or Oregon, please give me a call!

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