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Last week, this blog discussed how, despite the fact that they may be difficult discussions to have, individuals in Kansas City should sit down and talk to their loved ones about care planning. Some issues to discuss are whether or not to create a living trust, what one’s long-term care plans are, and what type of housing options a person may have. Another issue that is also to discuss, perhaps with the help of an attorney, is whether to create a medical power of attorney.

A medical power of attorney gives a trusted individual of your own choosing, called your ‘attorney-in-fact’ or agent, the ability to make decisions regarding your medical care when you are no longer able to do so. For example, an attorney-in-fact can consent to or refuse treatment, among other things. In a medical power of attorney, an individual can delineate exact instructions for the attorney-in-fact to follow.

While a medical power of attorney may seem similar to a living will, there are actually significant differences between the two. A living will addresses situations in which the individual’s medical condition has been deemed to be terminal by at least two physicians. It includes aspects of care at this point, such as do-not resuscitate orders. It does not address non-terminal medical conditions that could still lead to incapacity. This is when a medical power of attorney applies, to provide guidance at any point that a person becomes incapacitated, whether or not his or her medical condition is terminal. Many people have both types of documents in their estate plans.

This information may be confusing both to those who have not yet created an estate plan and to those who have one, but are unsure if it is complete. Therefore, it can help to bring the matter up to a professional. Attorneys, such as those at Stockton & Stern, LLC, may be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of estate planning documents an individual may be considering. This can help an individual determine what documents to include in his or her estate plan. The firm’s care planning overview may help those who want more information about medical powers of attorney and other facets of estate planning.