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Living Will vs Medical Power of Attorney

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

What is the difference between a Living Will (sometimes called and Advance Medical Directive) and a Medical Power of Attorney? And which one do I need? There is some confusion between these two documents, but there are some clear differences that will help you understand why you actually need BOTH! And, rest assured, Hammelman Law includes these documents in every estate plan, at no additional charge. These are part of a complete estate Plan and having a will and/or trust without these documents is like working on a puzzle and deliberately leaving the last 2 pieces out because it looks “good enough”.

Living Will

A Living Will is a written statement detailing your desires regarding your medical treatment if you are incapacitated, or no longer able to give informed consent. This allows you to communicate to health care professionals if there are certain treatments that you would like used or would not like used and helps to eliminate confusion regarding your medical treatment. This is frequently asked for by health care professionals if you are undergoing any procedures where you would receive anesthesia and will be incapacitated at least for a period of time.

Medical Power of Attorney

A Medical Power of Attorney (sometimes called a Health Care Power of Attorney) is a legal document that allows you to designate another person to make your medical decisions when you are incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. This means that anything not covered by your express wishes in the Living Will can be taken care of by the individual (or individuals) named in your Medical Power of Attorney. You can also provide guidance to the individual(s) you select as to how you might like your medical decisions decided. And you can either name one individual or you can name multiple individuals to act independently (either could make decisions on their own without consenting the other), together (both would need to agree to make the decisions), or consecutively (one would be the first choice and then you would have a backup).

Hammelman Law, PLLC handles estate planning and business law matters in Northern Virginia and Maryland. In Virginia we are given the title of Attorney and Counselor at Law. Melanie Hammelman takes not only the title of Attorney seriously, but the title of Counselor at Law, as well. Melanie provides her clients with advice and counseling as to the best options for an estate plan, given the specific family situation and ultimate desire for asset distribution.


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