Differences Between Advance Directives & a Durable Power of Attorney

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Advance Directive

Advance directives outline how you wish to proceed with your health care in the event you become unable to voice your opinion. Injury or illness including psychiatric conditions may leave you unable to make medical decisions. An advance directive puts in writing exact instructions on how to handle your health care. Most states require the signature of two witnesses and a notary to confirm the validity of the document.

Durable Power of Attorney

Separate from the standard power of attorney, designating a durable power of attorney elects that person to make your decisions in the event of mental incompetence. For a power of attorney to be considered a durable power it must specifically allow for decision making in the event of mental incapacity. Decision making under a durable power attorney may include legal, medical or financial decisions. Cancellation of the durable power of attorney occurs at death or when you regain mental capacity. According to Legal Services for the Elderly, the person chosen to be your durable power of attorney, also known as the agent, may make decisions as they please as long as the decision fulfills their fiduciary duty to make good faith decisions on your behalf.


Use the durable power of attorney and advance directive in conjunction to ensure you receive the care you desire. Enacting only a durable power of attorney may leave you at the behest of the decision making of your elected representative. Clearly outline how the person charged with power of attorney is to proceed with your health care choices. The advance directive serves as a blue print to your preferred health decisions. An advance directive will provide instruction for the durable power of attorney on how to proceed.



About the Author

Genevieve Jackson has written for "10th Life" and "Double A Beauty" since 2005. She is an entrepreneur with experience in risk management. She also engages in motivational speaking for entrepreneurs. Jackson received a bachelor's degree in political science from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

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