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Should you get a Living Will or Lasting Power of Attorney?

A patient discusses Living will or Lasting Power of Attorney with her doctor.
AUTHOR: Graham Southorn

A Living Will is a legal document that, unlike a Will, a Living Will is only useful during your lifetime and only applies to medical treatment. So which is better: a Living Will or Lasting Power of Attorney?

Living Wills are confusingly named. They are nothing to do with money and do not relate to anything that happens after your death. You cannot use them to give away money or property, or state funeral wishes.

Perhaps for this reason, the Living Will is often known by an another name: an Advance Decision. It’s sometimes called an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment.

A Living Will:

  • Applies only during your lifetime
  • Applies only to medical treatment
  • Applies only if you can’t make decisions for yourself

What medical decisions can I make with a Living Will?

The most important thing to know about Living Wills (Advance Decisions) is that they only let you refuse certain treatment.

If your beliefs, religious or otherwise, are so strong that you would refuse medical treatment, you can state these in a Living Will. Medical professionals, carers or family members can then follow your wishes.

For example. you can say that you wish medical treatment to keep you:

  • Free from pain if you have a life-threatening condition but not keep you alive
  • Free from pain if you are permanently mentally impaired but not keep you alive
  • Free from pain if you are consistently unconscious and unlikely to regain consciousness but not keep you alive

You can also make a list all of the medical treatments or tests you wish to refuse.

It is best to discuss your wishes with your family and friends before making a Living Will. Ideally, you should talk to your doctor and any other medical professionals before making one.

Once you have obtained a Living Will, written your wishes and had it signed and witnessed, you should let your doctor, family and friends know about its existence and w

You have the final say on who sees it, but you should make sure that your family, carers or health and social care professionals know about the decision. You should also let them know where to find it.

What are the drawbacks of Living Wills?

Living Wills might sound like a good idea but there are three drawbacks:

  1. They can only cover treatment you don’t want. There is no flexibility in this document to state other wishes, such as preferred diet or living arrangements.
  2. Your wishes could be superseded by medical advances. A treatment you dislike today could be radically different in the future. There could even be a cure for a condition that is incurable today.
  3. Living Wills can cause conflicts with the Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare.

Living Will or Power of Attorney?

Having Lasting Power of Attorney is far more flexible than a Living Will. The type of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) that is comparable is the LPA for Health and Welfare.

The Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare only applies if you have lost the capacity to make decisions for yourself. At that point, those decisions are made for you by the person you designate as your attorney.

You appoint people you completely trust to make decisions, such as your spouse, adult children and close friends, and leave your care in their hands. If and when they need to use the LPA, they can make the best decisions for you at the time.

While you can, if you wish, instruct your attorneys to refuse life-sustaining treatment, for the most part the LPA for Health and Welfare is a blank slate.

Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare is more flexible than a Living Will

The LPA for Health and Welfare does include a preferences section, in which you can state your wishes. You can say that you prefer a particular diet, clothing, pets or living arrangements. There are some examples in part A5 of the LP12 guide.

However, it may be best to express no preferences at all. That way you can keep things flexible and leave your attorneys to make the best decisions for you – decisions that you would have made for yourself.

When should I get Lasting Power of Attorney?

As long as you are over 18 and have mental capacity, it’s a good idea to get Lasting Power of Attorney. You just don’t know what’s around the corner as good health is something that’s impossible to predict.

If you have children who are over the 18, you should waste no time in getting Lasting Power of Attorney. As long as you trust them, you can get the LPA in place and, unless you cancel it, it will last the rest of your life.

Plus, a Lasting Power of Attorney only becomes an official document once it’s been registered with a Government body called the Office of the Public Guardian. This process can take months and you can only do it while you still have mental capacity.

To get the ball rolling, click the button below to request a free callback to discuss Lasting Power of Attorney. You can read more about Lasting Power of Attorney here.

For further information, download free factsheets on Wills, Trusts, Inheritance Tax, Lasting Power of Attorney and more.

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The information contained in these articles is for general interest purposes only. We take every precaution to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publishing but errors can occur. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies in the information. Bristol Wills & Estate Planning Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any results obtained from the use of this information. You should never rely on the information in these articles as a substitute for professional legal advice, whether from Bristol Wills & Estate Planning or any other legal service or professional.

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