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What is the Difference Between a Living Will and a Lasting Power of Attorney?

Thinking and planning about the distant future when you could lose your mental capacity or be in a vegetative state could be extremely disturbing. But doing nothing and simply hoping for the best could put you and your loved ones in a far worse situation. That’s why you need to plan for the future while you still have time and the necessary mental capacity. If you’re planning for your future health care, knowing about a living will and the lasting power of attorney is important. Let’s see what they are and how different one is from the other.

Living Will

Also known as an ‘advance decision’, it’s a document where you state your preferences for some particular end-of-life decisions. Usually, it’s your declaration to refuse specific treatments in case you lose mental capacity at the time of or prior to the treatment being considered. The purpose of a living will is to let your health care wishes be known to your doctors, family, and/or health care proxy (the individual who’s making your health care decisions on your behalf). Thus, such a document helps these people become aware of your wishes and preferences in case you’re unable to make decisions and convey them clearly on your own.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

It’s the process of giving someone, on whom you have unwavering trust, the legal right to make decisions on your behalf should you no longer want to make such decisions on your own or lose the mental capacity to do so in the future.

You can make two kinds of LPA – for health and welfare decisions and financial decisions. The former covers decisions about your health and personal welfare while your money and property come under the purview of the latter.

LPA for health and welfare could include making decisions about things such as:

  • The healthcare you need
  • Moving you into residential care
  • Your daily health and welfare issues like your diet, dressing, medical treatments you need, etc.
  • The type of social activities you should participate in
  • People you should have contact with

You can even give your attorney special permission to make decisions about life-saving treatments. The LPA also lets you include guidance notes, certain conditions, and restrictions on your attorney regarding your treatment.

What’s the difference?

Though a living will could appear to be similar to an LPA for health and welfare, there are certain key differences as mentioned below:

  1. The time it takes for these documents to become valid

A living will becomes valid as soon as it has been finished, signed, and witnessed.

You can use a Lasting Power of Attorney only after you have got it registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. Typically, it would take anywhere from 8 to 10 weeks, provided there aren’t any mistakes in the application.

  • What each of these documents cover

A living will simply covers your refusal of certain medical treatments. Thus, it’ll apply to the circumstances and treatments that you have specifically mentioned. This means it won’t be applicable in case you’re in a situation or are likely to undergo a treatment that isn’t covered in your living will.

In contrast, an LPA permits your attorney to make any decision on your behalf that’s related to your health and personal welfare. Thus, it could include decisions about your treatment as well as what your daily diet should be, where you’ll stay, how you should be cared for, etc.

  • Who’s the decision-maker

In a living will, you state your decision to refuse specific medical treatments. Thus, it’s a declaration in your own words and you’re the decision-maker.   

In case of an LPA, it’s your attorney who makes decisions on your behalf. This means you’ll have to trust your attorney to be aware of your wishes, respect them, and be capable of making decisions for you that are in your best interest. 

  • The associated cost

You can make a living will for free. To register an LPA, you’ll need to shell out £82. However, those with low incomes or receiving certain benefits can get the LPA registered at a reduced fee.

In case you have both these documents

You can have both a living will and a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for health and welfare (LPA). But the one created recently will override the other when a decision has to be taken regarding your treatment and care.

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