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Questions & Answers: Advance Directives and End of Life Decisions

If I refuse life support, will my life insurance be invalid?

No. Terminating or withholding a medical treatment is not suicide and will not invalidate a life insurance policy. The cause of death is the medical condition, which the treatments can do nothing to reverse.

What is the difference between a "will," a "living trust," and a "living will"?

Wills (last will and testament) and living trusts are both financial instruments; they allow you to plan the distribution of your financial assets and property. In contrast, a living will deals with medical issues while you are alive. It allows you to express your preferences about your medical care at the end of-life.

Wills and living trusts are complex legal instruments, and you might need legal advice to complete them. Although living wills and medical powers of attorney also are legal documents, you do not need a lawyer to complete them.

What is the difference between a financial "power of attorney", a financial "durable power of attorney" and a "medical power of attorney"?

A power of attorney and a durable power of attorney are both legal documents that let you appoint someone to make financial decisions for you. A regular power of attorney is effective only while you can still handle your own finances, whereas a durable power of attorney remains valid even after you have lost the ability to make financial decisions (due to Alzheimer's disease, for example).

A medical power of attorney (which in some states is called a "durable power of attorney for healthcare") only permits the appointed person to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make those decisions yourself. It does not authorize the person to handle your financial affairs, and normally does not empower him or her to make decisions while you can still make them.

In most states, you can appoint the same person to make financial and healthcare decisions for you, but you must use separate documents to do so. To learn about your state's law regarding financial powers of attorney or durable powers of attorney, contact a lawyer.

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

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