Many people don't know what all of these are, and, with my experience in health care field and consulting for legal services, I thought I'd elaborate on the differences and needs. Wills, also known as last will and testaments, are VERY different than living wills and health care power of attorneys. The main similarity is they all have to do with what YOU want under difficult circumstances. They all let family know what you want, as well as hospitals, courts, etc. know your desires.
To begin with, a will is a legal document stating what you want happening to your assets and children after you die. This document is very involved and having the help of an attorney is definitely preferable to doing it yourself, especially if you can get it done at low cost or no cost. For parents, having a will is essential especially so you can have one of your most precious responsibilities accounted for. Since all of us will die at some point, having a will is crucial to ensuring that your desires are enforced. The last will and testament is a way to voice your opinions when you no longer have a voice to let others know what you want.
Secondly, a living will is most recently known as advanced directive. This is a legal document to let your family know what you want while you are still living. What do I mean? If you are only able to breathe with a machine, do you want to live on a ventilator, or do you want them to pull the plug? Personally, after working with people on ventilators, I would choose to live on one, but many people do not, since it can cost $30,000 a month. Many family members struggle with pulling the plug, feeling that if they do, they killed their loved one. However, if they know that's what you wanted, in many cases it would be an easier decision for them to make. There are also things called full code and DNR. If you want to be full code, that means that you want health care professionals to do anything they need to in order to keep you alive. DNR, Do Not Resuscitate, means that if you are not breathing and don't have a pulse, you don't want health professionals to try to continue to keep you alive. These are very different interests and family members need to know what YOU want.
The last of the three I will explain is a Health Care Power of Attorney. This is the person you want deciding where you go if you can no longer make the decision. The health care power of attorney will decide whether you need to stay with a family member, go to a nursing home, assisted living facility, have home health come to take care of you, have a live-in caregiver live with you or the like. The good news is that you can choose a person you trust to make these decisions for you should your health drastically decline. This is a hard decision to make but one that, if you can, you should tell family what you want if you cannot decide anymore.
There are many choices that are yours to make regarding your care toward the end of your life and after you are gone. You get to choose how you want things, while you're still healthy. However, you don't have to do it alone. You can get help from attorneys to help you know the pros and cons to each decision you make regarding legal matters. If you don't know what choices to make, get informed to know what you want. Find help to help you make the best choice for your family by letting them know what you want or not.
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