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Are living wills and powers of attorney the same thing?

Figuring out which estate planning documents one actually needs can be a bit of a challenge. Part of this is because some of these documents seem to serve the same purposes. Regardless of how similar some of the protections offered are, each estate planning document has been designed for a specific reason. One does not replace the other. For instance, some California residents may be confused about the differences between living wills and powers of attorney.

A living will is an advance directive of sorts. In this document one leaves instructions regarding how his or her medical and/or financial affairs are to be handled in the event of incapacitation. This provides direction for one's personal representative so that decisions are made based on one's wants and wishes.

A power of attorney, on the other hand, simply gives a person or persons the authority to make medical and/or financial decisions for one who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to take care of these things on his or her own. There are some limitations to what the personal representative can do. His or her actions must serve one's best interests.

Clearly these two documents are not the same. They serve very different purposes and do not offer the same protections. It is possible to have one or the other, but really they work better together. California residents who need more information about living wills, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents that they may need need can turn to an experienced attorney for guidance and assistance in creating an estate plan that offers all the protections that they require.

Source:, "The Difference Between a POA, Durable POA and Living Will", Marlo Sollitto, Accessed on June 28, 2017

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Marissa Sirota Law
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