Living wills vs healthcare power of attorneys

There are quite a few factors to consider and put into place for your estate plan. Most are familiar with a will, but some may not be aware that a living will is different, and even fewer may know a healthcare power of attorney also covers a different set of aspects.

For your estate plan to provide the best possible directives, it is important that you understand the various elements. There are a few key factors that help to distinguish the living will from the healthcare power of attorney.

Living will

A living will focuses on a person’s desire to forego resuscitation or life-prolonging efforts once she or he becomes incapacitated. For example, a living will may state for the family to not keep the will’s holder on breathing machines, or any other type of medical assistance, should she or he become brain dead.

Healthcare power of attorney

An appointment of a healthcare power of attorney denotes who an individual wants to take care of all medical dealings. This designation goes into effect when will holders become incapacitated and only lasts as long as they cannot make decisions for themselves. Designees may choose to denote specific medical directions within the designation, and it is the job of the power of attorney to fulfill those wishes lawfully.


Individuals may choose to incorporate a living will or healthcare power of attorney in their estate plans, as well as choose both. Whichever choice is made, it is important to ensure the will designations align with the set guidelines of the will laws in Pennsylvania. A knowledgeable attorney can help to make sure the estate plan is lawful, as well as ensure the individual does not leave any grey areas in the plan.

These are just two of the possible portions of an estate plan. If you are creating or updating your plan, take some time to research your options to make the best determinations for you and your loved ones.