The Difference Between an Advance Directive and a Living Will

Monday, April 5, 2021

If you’re like most of us, the last thing you want to do is consider your end-of-life needs. Research shows that 68% of Americans don’t even have a will, preventing them from retaining control of their finances in the event of their death.

However, there are a few preparations that are arguably more personally necessary than a will, and many Americans fail to secure them as well: advance directives and living wills.

These documents help you retain control of your medical future, but it’s not always easy to understand how they’re used. What is the difference between an advance directive and living will, and when do you need each one? Read on to learn why both of these documents are so important.

What Is an Advance Directive?

This document explains the healthcare wishes you’d like carried out in the event that you become incapacitated. This can include conditions like dementia, stroke, terminal illnesses, or a coma.

Advance directives can explain your wishes in a number of ways.

First, they may outline your preferences about medical treatments as well as resuscitation and life-sustaining efforts. They can also cover your preferences on organ donation following your death.

In addition, they can also name someone as a healthcare proxy. This allows the person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you can’t communicate them yourself. This is known as a medical power of attorney.

Because they carry a great deal of meaning, advance directives are often created as formal legal documents. However, in some cases, spoken instructions to a medical professional can be taken as an advance directive.

What Is the Difference Between an Advance Directive and a Living Will?

The terms “living will” and “advance directive” are sometimes used interchangeably, which can be confusing.

However, a living will is a single type of advance directive.

The specific focus of a living will is life-sustaining efforts and end-of-life treatments. This can include preferences about resuscitation, intubation, dialysis, and similar treatments.

Who Needs an Advance Directive and Living Will?

Just as it’s important for every individual to make end-of-life plans with a last will and testament, it’s also a good idea to create an advance directive.

Paired with creating a last will and pre-planning your funeral, an advance directive helps you retain control of your life and death. If you do not create an advance directive, you may not have control over your medical care in the event that you’re incapacitated. Even your loved ones may not be able to argue with medical professionals on your behalf.

In addition, an advance directive keeps you from forcing your loved ones to take up the burden of making end-of-life decisions for you. 

In other words, having an advance directive in place can help you keep control of your medical decisions while reducing potential future suffering for you and your family.

Start Planning for Your Future Today

Advance directives are one decision among many that you should make to retain control of your life and death. If you haven’t already created this crucial plan, consider sitting down to draw one up as soon as possible.

As you continue making plans for your future, know that the team at Schumacher and Benner Funeral Home & Crematory is here for you. To learn how we can assist in your plans, read more about our services online or request information today.

At Schumacher & Benner Funeral Home and Crematory, we want to take care of you and your family in any way possible. Our services include traditional funeral services, celebration of life services, cremations, selection of memorial and headstones, and more.  

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