Livens & Reed, PLLC

Living will and power of attorney are strong planning steps

It is a natural inclination for someone who becomes incapacitated and in need of medical care to want to have a say in what happens. The appropriate way to set up that kind of assurance for an elderly family member is to have the forms drawn up and signed while the loved one is mentally competent and able to know the nature of the document being signed. In Texas, these forms are essentially comprised of two operative documents: an advance care directive, also called a living will, and a medical power of attorney.

The advance care directive essentially tells one's doctors and care providers what kind of medical treatment is desired if something happens in the future to make the person unable to communicate his or her wishes. This may dictate that all artificial life support and resuscitation methods be used to keep the individual alive or it may direct the opposite approach. If properly witnessed or notarized, the living will is generally a legally enforceable document.

The medical power of attorney gives a family member or trusted friend the authority to make medical decisions and communicate them to medical providers. It authorizes the appointee to sign forms agreeing to surgery and other forms of treatment. The medical power of attorney gives the appointed person the right to sign the patient's name on his or her behalf for any other number of medical purposes.

The great advantage of these legal instruments is that they free the surviving family from having to ruminate over whether the right decision is being made. It gives them a direct line to the incapacitated loved one through the living will that demonstrates his or her wishes for medical care in the future and allows the power of attorney designee to sign on the person's behalf.  Although there is no absolute requirement in Texas that an attorney draw up these documents, in many cases the questions, complications and legal issues that people want answered or addressed will be most effectively and accurately handled by an experienced attorney.

Source:, "Planning for the unexpected", Joshua Vaughn, July 13, 2015

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