What is a “Living Will”?
The term “living will” is commonly used to describe a document recording instructions regarding treatment. For example, it is common for people to write a “living will” stating that they do not want to be kept alive on artificial life support if there is no chance of medical recovery. A living will and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care are NOT the same thing. A living will is a document that provides instructions but does not provide decision making authority. It is very important that these two terms are not confused otherwise your loved ones may be legally unable to fulfil your treatment wishes.
Note, though that a living will can be incorporated into a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. In other words, the document that gives the authority to the attorney can also provide parameters and/or instructions for that attorney.
A living will can take at least some of the strain off of your attorney for personal care: it can remove doubt about what you wanted (and thus reduce worry for the attorney in trying to be sure what you would have wanted), and it can provide comfort in that the attorney isn’t making the hard call, it is you making it, and the attorney is just carrying out your instructions. After all, nobody wants to put guilt onto the shoulders of a loved one.