The health care power of attorney is the document where you choose who you want to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make your own decisions. This person is usually acting because there is a medical crisis, so it is important that you choose someone who can handle that kind of stress.
When you don’t have a health care power of attorney, a couple of things happen. If you are married, medical professionals usually look to the spouse to make decisions. That is fine if the spouse is able to, but maybe they were in the car accident with you and need someone to make decisions for them, too, or maybe they have dementia or Alzheimer’s and can no longer make decisions for you.
Or perhaps you are not married? You think to yourself, “That’s fine. My kids can decide.” Most medical facilities will need a majority agreement between your children before they can act on your behalf, and if you have two children, they must agree unanimously. If there is no majority, the kids end up in probate court in a guardianship proceeding to determine who will be in charge of your medical decisions. Regardless of agreement or not, the process of obtaining multiple children’s agreement may be time consuming – wasting valuable time you may not have.
The living will is the document in which you make decisions regarding end of life care – “pull the plug.” If you are in a persistent vegetative state, irreversible coma, or have some other terminal condition and have no reasonable hope of recovery, do you want to be kept alive artificially with feeding tubes? Do you want to be resuscitated if you have a heart attack? Making these important decisions ahead of time is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your loved ones.