Powers of Attorney. A power of attorney is a document in which you appoint someone else, usually your spouse or other relative, to make decisions for you in case you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. It can be drafted to go into effect immediately or to go into effect only upon your disability (a “springing” power of attorney). It can also be drafted to be effective even during any disability you may have, and for this reason the law refers to it as a “durable” power of attorney. A power of attorney can be limited to a particular transaction, such as a real estate closing, or it can be drafted in a broad manner, so that the person you have named to act for you is allowed to do anything you would have been able to do. Finally, and perhaps most important, the power of attorney may include a medical directive which allows the person you have named to make medical decisions for you in case you are hurt and incapacitated and cannot, therefore, make those medical decisions for yourself.
Living Wills. A living will is a declaration, signed by the person making the declaration and signed by two witnesses, that the person signing the document wants to withdraw or withhold death-prolonging procedures. The declaration becomes effective only if the declarant’s condition is determined to be terminal and the declarant is not able to make treatment decisions.
You have probably read or seen in the media the horror stories in which family members have fought in the courts for the right to end a relative’s life or to keep a relative alive. These court fights have occurred, usually, because the disabled person has not clearly expressed his or her wishes in writing in a living will and/or power of attorney. At Endicott Law Firm, LLC, we recommend that everyone should have a living will and power of attorney to avoid an end-of-life dispute or any other dispute during a person’s disability. If you sign a well-drafted living will and power of attorney, you will also greatly reduce the chance that your loved ones will have to file a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding in probate court before being able to take action on your behalf.