In addition to the selection of either a Will or living trust, a comprehensive estate plan should include a Health Care Proxy and Living Will (sometimes within the same document) and a durable general Power of Attorney.
The Health Care Proxy and Living Will address the termination of life support in the event of a terminal illness or injury, and who will make health care decisions for you, if you cannot. By executing a Living Will you can inform your family and the attending physician of your desire not to receive life support or to have heroic measures taken to prolong your life. Or it can be used to clearly state your desire as to the medical care to be provided. That is, you may want measures taken to prolong your life. A Living Will is basically a health care declaration.
The Health Care Proxy appoints an agent to speak for you. It is designed to entrust a loved one or close friend with the legal authority necessary to make medical decisions (including termination of life support) in case you are unable to personally communicate with the doctors.
By executing a Power of Attorney, you may grant to someone the legal authority to handle your financial transactions (pay your bills, manage your finances, and sometimes, plan for Medicaid eligibility). A Power of Attorney is only valid during your lifetime. If you die, the Power of Attorney automatically terminates. The Power of Attorney is intended to serve as a safety net to the estate plan to protect against lifetime financial emergencies. A Power of Attorney can postpone or possibly avoid a guardianship if you become mentally incapacitated.