Recently, there has been a good deal of concern that health professionals frequently do not follow the directives contained in Living Wills because either the healthcare professionals did not know the patient had a Living Will or because the patient’s instructions were ignored under a “doctor knows best” philosophy. Also, in most states the care instructions provided in a Healthcare Power of Attorney override the instructions left in a Living Will if the two conflict with each other.

For these reasons, many estate planners recommend that the primary healthcare directive be the appointment of a specific healthcare agent in a Healthcare Power of Attorney. A handpicked agent serving as your healthcare advocate could make the difference between whether your healthcare instructions will be followed or not.

On the other hand, some estate planners argue that also having a Living Will in place can provide needed instructions if your healthcare agent, for any reason, is unable to serve. This is usually not a problem because of your ability to appoint successor healthcare agents if the first one named does not serve. Ultimately, the decision whether to have one or both documents is an important issue to discuss with your estate planning attorney.