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4 differences between a health care directive and a health care power of attorney

If you or a loved one is in failing health, it is wise to take precautions that ensure their wishes will be respected when it comes to care and treatment. There are several ways to do this, but documenting the necessary directions is essential to establishing a protocol for any medical attention received. Health care directives and health care power of attorney are two options to consider, and they are commonly confused, but these four differences may help you decide which is best.

1. A directive leaves you in control

One study has suggested that as few as 25 percent of people complete health care directives. They are an effective tool, however, for maintaining control of your health care and ensuring your wishes are not violated. In creating an advance directive, you outline your specific requests for medical treatment and typically have the document endorsed by an attorney or another third party.

2. Power of attorney gives control to somebody else

Unlike a directive, when you establish power of attorney, you hand over control of your health care to another person. This may be a spouse, a child or a close friend. Once you designate power of attorney to somebody, he or she is responsible for and able to make decisions regarding your medical care. For this reason, it is important that you pursue power of attorney only if you completely trust somebody.

3. Health care directives will depend on your state

If you think a health care directive may be a better option, you should know that the validity of a directive is often dependent upon the state you live in. Each state has specific laws that may make a directive legal in one area and inadmissible in another. If there is any possibility that you will embark on interstate travel over the course of your health care, this could be an issue.

4. Power of attorney designation may be transferable

Like health care directives, the legal requirements for power of attorney designation may vary by state, but many states simply require a document that has been witnessed by two disinterested people and notarized. This means that power of attorney privileges may be easily transferable between states if there is a possibility of traveling.

It is difficult to plan for your medical needs, but doing so is imperative if you are in poor health. An attorney may be able to help you better understand your options and choose ones that best suit you.

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Mccullough & Mccullough

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