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Having a plan for your health is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. If there comes the point in which you are unable to care for yourself, having your wishes laid out in specifics will take a burden off of your family and help ensure that you get the care that you intended. 

How to proceed with a care plan isn’t always obvious. The two main avenues to go are setting up a living will and designating a healthcare power of attorney. These two are not precisely the same, and it may be wise to set up both to ensure all bases are covered. 

Living Will

A living will is essentially a written instruction on how you want to proceed with your care should you become incapacitated. This should not be confused with a traditional will that is intended to determine the inheritance and division of your assets. A living will is strictly medical and focuses on your desired medical treatment. If you develop a terminal disease that leaves you unable to instruct your care, the instructions on the living will are followed. 

It is important to have a professional set up a living will for you, as there are complex details to cover that is associated with the condition that you may be afflicted with. A living will covers medical conditions and associated instructions for situations such as: 

  • Resuscitation
  • Assisted breathing
  • Tube feeding
  • Prolonged coma

In addition, a living will instructs medical professionals on end-of-life procedures from a religious or philosophical perspective.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

Another important document to obtain to ensure your healthcare future is appointing a healthcare power of attorney. This designation appoints someone as a proxy and gives them the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf. 


Healthcare power of attorney is different from a living will, as it can cover end-of-life treatment and additional areas of medical care. But the proxy will only be able to make decisions for you if it was determined by a medical professional that you are unable to do so yourself, which is similar to a living will. 

Obviously, the decision on who to appoint as a healthcare power of attorney is an important one, as they will be directly affecting your care in the event that you are unable to do so. 

Do You Need a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will? 

Many individuals choose to have both a healthcare power of attorney and a living will to ensure their care is covered in the event they are incapacitated. Since the two don’t completely align on all fronts, there are advantages to having both in place. 

Primarily, a living will helps direct your care in an end-of-life situation. But, a healthcare power of attorney can assist in situations that aren’t necessarily end-of-life related but might be. It often comes down to personal preference and trust of the options that exist in your life for these situations. 

When Does a Living Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney Take Effect? 

When it comes to healthcare documents you have prepared in the case you are incapacitated, a healthcare provider will always be the one to determine that need. A family member, or even your healthcare power of attorney, should not be the one to step in and determine that you are no longer of the capacity to make healthcare decisions for yourself. 

Typically, this is determined when you cannot understand the nature of the healthcare choices that you have and their potential consequences. It can also be that you may understand the choices but have no way to communicate them through oral, written, or gesture form. 

In many cases, it may be clear to everyone involved that you are unable to act on your own behalf if you are in a coma or other severe scenario. But when it comes to questions, a doctor will step in and make the determination. 

Does Your Living Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney Expire or End? 

Typically, the decisions that you have made concerning your healthcare will remain in effect until your death. But, there are situations where they may expire or end, other than death. Some of these include: 

  • You revoke your documents
  • A court invalidates your documents
  • Someone challenges your agent’s authority, and the court revokes the documents
  • You get a divorce

While lawsuits surrounding living wills and healthcare power of attorney appointments are rare, they can happen. There are some precedents of these situations. 

If you need help preparing a living will, or power of attorney document, Collins Law Firm can assist you. We help individuals in the Milwaukee area prepare their healthcare documents. We do this because we care, and we want to help ensure you and your family’s future are protected. 

Talk to someone about your estate plan today. Free and Confidential.

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