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The difference between a living will and Health Care Proxy

For those hoping to create a comprehensive estate plan that protects them, their assets and their loved ones in the event of their death or incapacitation due to medical issues, addressing health concerns early on is a common tactic. However, it isn't necessarily as straightforward as you might imagine.

Residents of New York have more options than people in other states when it comes to authorizing others to make medical decisions on their behalf. Specifically, those planning their estate can use either a living will or Health Care Proxy form to outline their medical wishes and preferences.

Deciding which one is a better option for you will require an examination of your current situation and what you hope to achieve by executing these documents.

A Health Care Proxy gives someone you trust broad authority

When you execute a Health Care Proxy form, you name someone that you trust, potentially a close friend or relative, to make medical decisions in the event that you can't make them for yourself. They specifically have interpretive powers to make unique decisions based on their understanding of your wishes and preferences.

You may outline some of those wishes in the Health Care Proxy form, but in the event that you don't address every potential issue, the person you named as your proxy can make decisions on your behalf. In fact, one of the benefits of a Health Care Proxy is that you don't have to make all of those complicated medical decisions ahead of time.

A living will is a collection of documents that protect you

The living will that someone creates will vary depending on their unique medical and family circumstances. What one person feels they must include will not seem important at all to someone else. Common documents include an advance medical directive, which specifically outlines your personal preferences for different medical procedures.

You can discuss everything from organ donation to the use of pain medication. In the event that you wind up incapacitated or unable to make medical decisions for yourself, the advance medical directive can advise the hospital of your wishes.

You may also want to include a power of attorney document that transfers medical authority to someone you trust. Like a health care proxy, a power of attorney document authorizes someone else to make a decision for you. Your living will could also include financial power of attorney documents and trust paperwork.

Deciding whether a Health Care Proxy or a living will is your best option will depend on many factors. For some people, the best solution could be a combination of the two. There is no reason why you can't include a Health Care Proxy form as one of the documents in a more comprehensive living will.

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