Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney, as well as living wills, are often referred to as Advance Directives. These documents direct decisions about medical treatment, bill paying and other financial issues, when an individual cannot make the decision for themselves. These documents should be executed prior to reaching the point where you cannot make decisions for yourself. This is why, as a group, they are referred to as "advance directives",
Advance directives are statements or directives you create to name a trusted person to make medical or financial decisions if you are not able to do so in the future. Advance directives also express your values and wishes to guide the agent, who makes medical decisions for you. These documents are essential components of an estate plan and each individual should consider executing them.
A medical power of attorney allows you to appoint an agent who will make decisions about your healthcare, including hospital, hospice, and nursing home care. Such decisions can include placement issues if you are unable to continue living where you are currently living. Such a document may avoid the need to have the court appoint a guardian to make those decisions for you in a guardianship proceeding. This can save substantial time and money, not to mention allow you to put the power with the person you want in charge.
A financial power of attorney allows you to choose the person who can pay your bills and manage your assets if you become incapacitated. Having such a document in your estate planning arsenal may avoid the need of a court to appoint a conservator to manage your finances. Conservatorships can be expensive and cumbersome.
Another type of advance directive is a "living will," which allows you to express your values and wishes with regard to life-prolonging medical treatment such as ventilators, artificial nutrition, artificial hydration and dialysis.