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What's the difference between power of attorney and a living will

There are two basic ways to set up your health care in advance if you're afraid that you won't be able to make decisions in the future. For example, you may be worried that you'll get dementia and have significant memory loss. The two options you have are drafting a living will or setting up a health care power of attorney.

A living will is best if you already know what you want to happen. You simply spell it out in the will, and that has to be followed if you can't make decisions on your own.

For example, you may know that you don't want to use life support if your body would not survive without it, or you may want to use life support for as long as possible, giving you a chance to recover. These are difficult decisions for children and other family members to make, but the living will takes the pressure off of them.

A health care power of attorney is best if you don't know exactly what you want to happen, but you do have someone you trust to make the right decisions. The power of attorney then gives them this official ability so that they can make choices on your behalf. This power is most often given to a spouse or to children so that these individuals can legally instruct the doctors if you are in a state that prevents you from telling those doctors what you want.

To use either one in Florida, be sure you know all of the legal steps that have to be taken.

Source: FIndLaw, "Health Care Power of Attorney," accessed Dec. 30, 2015

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