Are you familiar with a Medical Power of Attorney document? How about a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care? Are they one and the same? The terminology used in law and estate planning can be confusing. Advance medical directives have a number of legal documents with similar names, but different purposes.
First, let’s define Advance Medical Directives, which are documents used in estate planning that allow you to convey your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time, as well as appoint a health care agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do.
The various documents, their different names and their purpose are outlined below.
Also known as a health care declaration, living will, a medical directive or a directive to physicians. This document states your wishes regarding life support and end of life care. It generally takes effect when you can no longer communicate your health care wishes.
Health Care Proxy
Also known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Medical Power of Attorney, a Designation of a Surrogate or a Patient Advocate Designation. This document is used to appoint a health care proxy or health care agent to make medical decisions on your behalf should you lack the capacity to do so on your own.
One would think the terminology within each category above would be interchangeable, but words count when it comes to the law. In New York, a Health Care Proxy Form is used to appoint a health care agent to act on your behalf for medical decisions. A Durable Power of Attorney would be a separate legal document that can achieve other estate planning needs as well, such as appointing someone to handle your finances should you no longer be able to do so on your own.
An estate planning attorney can best advise you on the Advance Medical Directives and estate planning documents that meet your needs.