Protecting Estates.
Protecting Legacies.

Difference Between an Advanced Health Care Directive and a Power of Attorney


Estate planning is extremely important, but it can get quite complicated since there are so many different terms and concepts to understand. Many people get confused about the difference between a power of attorney and an advance care directive. This is because, at first glance, these two estate planning tools seem like they offer the same exact benefits, but this is not necessarily the case.

If you are in the process of creating and organizing your estate plans and you have come across these two estate plan documents, you should know the difference between the two, so you can make the best personal decision.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a document that someone named the donor or principal makes that appoints another individual (the attorney) to manage their various affairs and act on their behalf. The power of attorney is essentially permitting the attorney to “step into their shoes” in order to make important decisions, such as signing a lease, collecting debts, or determining specific medical treatment. There are two main types of powers of attorney: a general power of attorney only manages these affairs for a limited time until the attorney is no longer impaired. An enduring power of attorney, however, will continue to operate even if the principal has impaired capacity.

What Is an Advance Health Care Directive?

An advance health care directive, or also known simply as an ACD, follows the same concept of you being able to set out your specific wishes with regard to medical treatment if you reach a level of physical or mental incapacity. However, an ACD doesn’t appoint anyone to make your decisions. Instead, an ACD is simply a personal written document that you give to your medical treatment providers should you be unable to communicate these wishes in the future.

Both of these estate planning tools are useful ways for you to lay out your medical treatment wishes and concerns. It’s vital that you use one of the tools as part of your estate plan, because it is unwise to rely on yourself to be able to communicate and deal with these health care decisions forever. If you need further assistance with implementing one of these tools for your estate plan, contact our San Jose estate planning lawyers today.

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