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Do I need a living will or a power of attorney?

If you have ever had surgery in Iowa, you have likely been asked if you have a living will or power of attorney. While they may sometimes sound like the same thing, there are actually major differences between the two documents. The Mayo Clinic explains both so you can determine which is best for you.


A living will differs from a traditional will in that it is designed to be used while you are still alive. Guidelines set forth in a living will can authorize medical providers to use certain measures to keep you alive, as well as detail at what point you would prefer to be let go. This can include decisions about whether you would like to be resuscitated, on mechanical ventilation or given dialysis. Organ donation and pain management can also be indicated, insuring that your final wishes are made no matter when you pass on.


A power of attorney, on the other hand, names someone to make decisions for you if you should become unable to do so for yourself. While this can include situations when you are nearing the end of your life, it can also allow that person to take business or legal actions any time you are unable to do so.


While each of these documents are useful, some people prefer one over the other. Generally, it is recommended to have both, allowing you to indicate your wishes but also giving someone you trust the power to make decisions in situations you did not anticipate. This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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