Throughout your lifetime you enjoy the ability to make millions of decisions. While some of those decisions are relatively unimportant daily decisions such as what to eat for lunch, others are life-changing decisions such as whether to have a child or whether to invest in a home. If you become incapacitated at some point in your life who will make those decisions for you? Although you may one day be unable to make your own decisions, there are ways to make some of the most important ones ahead of time and/or decide who will make them for you by executing a living will or other advance directive.
State laws determine what types of advance directives are available and what is required to create one. In Illinois, there are essentially three types of advance directive recognized by law – a durable power of attorney for property, a durable power of attorney for healthcare, and a living will.
A living will in Illinois is a legal document that allows you to make important decisions regarding your health care in the event you one day become incapacitated and are unable to make those decisions. In the State of Illinois, a living will only allows you to refuse life-prolonging procedures. If you have a “incurable and irreversible injury, disease, or illness judged to be a terminal condition” you may indicate that you do not want procedures that would only prolong the process of dying. For example, artificial hydration or food, or breathing machines, are frequently used to keep a patient alive, yet do nothing to actually make the patient get better. If you do not want to receive procedures such as these, you may wish to execute a living will.
A durable power of attorney for property or healthcare allows you to appoint an agent. These documents grant a significant amount of legal authority to the individual you appoint as your agent. Therefore, you should understand what you are signing and give a considerable amount of thought to appointing an agent prior to executing either document.
A durable power of attorney for property gives your agent legal authority to act on your behalf in transactions involving your property. This can include things such as withdrawing funds from a bank account or even selling your home. A durable power of attorney for healthcare appoints someone as your agent for the purpose of making healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself one day. Your agent under a durable power of attorney for healthcare may literally be making life and death decisions for you one day which is why you should choose your agent with care.
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