Health Care Document Terminology in the context of Estate Planning

stethoscope on a keyboardWhile the terms “Living Will”, “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care” and “Advance Health Care Directive” seem interchangeable, they are actually very different documents with clear and separate purposes.

A “Living Will” is a document that allows you to explain what instructions you want followed, such as how long you want to remain on life support, and whether you desire pain medication and artificial nutrition or hydration in certain medical circumstances. It does not appoint an agent who can then implement your desires.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document which does state your medical desires and does appoint an agent to implement them when you do not have the capacity to do so.

In Vermont, a Living Will is no longer utilized. Instead, Vermont has combined the two documents into a document called an “Advance Directive for Health Care and Disposal of Remains.” This document gives you the opportunity to express your wishes in a much more complete fashion.

If you want to be precise about your wishes, and able to consider all the available options, the you can utilize the Long Form Advance Directive for Health Care. An estate planning attorney can also review your statutory options with you, and you can seek guidance from your medical doctor.

An Advance Directive for Health Care form can be any length you want, based on forms from other states, or composed in a completely original way. If it is properly signed and witnessed in the state in which it is signed, it is legal in Vermont.

In Vermont, the person you name to make decisions for you is called your agent. Most people choose their spouse, partner, relative, or a close friend to take on this responsibility. Your agent doesn’t necessarily need to live in Vermont. You want to choose someone who is trustworthy and dependable and will be calm under pressure so they can carry out your wishes as stated in your Advance Directive for Health Care.

Composing your Advance Directive for Health Care is clearly not a simple project, and it is a good idea to do so with the assistance of an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney. That way you can make sure that all the details of your end-of-life wishes are delineated in a manner that you desire.

To learn more or to begin your estate planning process, please contact us at Aaron J. Goldberg, PLC.



“Used with permission 2016”


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Attorneys with Aaron J. Goldberg, PLC are members of the Vermont Bar Association and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.