Proxy vs Will

What is the difference between a healthcare proxy and a living will?

Hi, I’m Michelle Carter, your End of Life coach. And I’m here to answer your most frequently asked questions.

What is the difference between a healthcare proxy and a living will? A healthcare proxy is a document by which you list people who you wish to be able to make healthcare decisions for you in your best interest in the event that you are incapacitated and no longer able to do so.

In this proxy, you will give an order of preference for which you wish your proxies to work, so you’ll choose your first choice for who you want to stand in and speak on your behalf. Your second choice and your third choice and medical providers will follow the proxy based on who is available, and who is willing to act, in that preference order that you indicated. Your healthcare proxy will also indicate the situations in which you wish the healthcare proxy to act.

Your living will is the roadmap that your healthcare proxy will follow. The living will is where you explicitly state the kinds of care that you wish to receive and in what scenarios you wish to receive certain care.

Some people want all lifesaving measures to be taken in all circumstances at all times. Other people want there to be limits to the life sustaining medical activities in certain scenarios. So in that living will, you’re creating a roadmap for your proxies to follow and expressing what your wishes are so that when they are in the scenario, when they are asked to make those decisions for you, they have a pretty good idea of what your philosophy is and what your wishes are and a roadmap to follow to make that happen.

It’s important to note that every state has slightly different documents for and different wording for your healthcare proxy and for your living will.
But generally speaking, they ask the same thing. Who do you want? What preference do you want them to act in? It’s important to note that you do need witnesses for these documents. It’s really important to work with an attorney on getting these documents made. However, if you are unable or unwilling to work with an attorney, anything in writing is better than nothing.

It’s very important that uh your signature and your wishes be witnessed. If you just create a document on your home computer and sign it yourself that may not stand up in a court of law. However, if you have it notarized, if you have multiple witnesses, that’s a different scenario. So I hope that answers the question of what is a healthcare proxy, what is a living will, and what is the difference between the two?

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