Living Will Vs. Advance Directive
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Living Will Vs. Advance Directive

Thinking about the differences between a living wills and advance directives? Keep reading to discover which to use when establishing your estate plan.

Living wills and advance directives are occasionally confused when creating a thorough estate plan, but it’s important to know their differences. Below is what you should know.

Living Will vs. Advance Directive

It is essential to understand that a living will is a kind of advance directive.

What is a living will?

A living will allows you plan what types of medical treatment you want should become incapacitated—and, maybe just as vital, it allows you to declare what kinds of medical care you do not want. These can comprise of intubation, dialysis, being put on a ventilator, and other specified treatments.

Living wills are also utilized to respond to other types of healthcare decisions, like the use of a feeding tube if you can’t feed yourself anymore, and if you want to be resuscitated should your heart stop beating.

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is legal documentation that outlines your healthcare wishes should you become incapacitated because of injury, incurable disease, or a permanent vegetative state, and you are no longer able to make such decisions for yourself.

When having an advance directive through your estate plan, your medical practitioners can proceed with treatment in accordance to your stated wishes. Simply put, this directive allows you to plan your preferences for future medical treatment(s).

You are able to discontinue these directives at any time, given that you are not incapacitated.

What is a health care power of attorney?

The health care (or medical) power of attorney is one other advance directive that’s typically used in an estate plan. Also called a healthcare proxy, a HPOA allows you to designate an individual, referred to as an attorney-in-fact, for making medical and treatment decisions for you should you become unable of doing so.

Living wills and HPOA are not an either/or situation. Rather, many people employ both kinds of advance directives to guarantee that their medical care is going to be handled the way they wish. Whereas you should talk about your wants with your attorney-in-fact, your living will can provide them with additional guidance and direction.

When thinking about carrying out advance directives in your estate plan, it’s also vital to understand that every state has their own guidelines and regulations concerning such directives. Due to this, comprehensive research or meeting with an estate-planning attorney is certainly recommended prior to you embarking on creating an advance directive.

In a powerful estate plan, advance directives like living wills and HPOA can be used for complementing each other, helping guarantee that your medical treatment wishes are acknowledged and communicated to your health care providers, and taking the burden of making these decisions off the shoulders of your mourning loved ones.


  1. Belle Wong, J. D. (2023, February 22). Living will vs. advance directive. LegalZoom. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from

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