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A living will is a legal document that directs a person’s doctors and medical providers of her wishes after she becomes incapacitated or unable to communicate the health care she wants. A living will usually provides for a health care power of attorney. A power of attorney is who will speak on a person’s behalf when she is unable to speak for herself.

Kentucky Living Will Directive Act

In Kentucky, a person can leave specific health care instructions in four areas: designating a health care surrogate (the person who will make medical decisions when a person is unable to make their own decisions), whether the person would refuse or request life prolonging treatment, refusing or requesting artificial feeding or hydration (feeding through a tube), and allowing the person to participate in or refuse organ donation.

Legal Requirements for a Living Will

The state of Kentucky requires four areas to create a valid living will. The person creating the living will is an adult (over the age of 18), who has the capacity to make decisions. A living will must be in writing, signed, and dated and either witnessed by at least two adults who are not related to her, in the presence of each other, or before a notary. The will must also be in the same form as the statutory living will in Kentucky Revised Statutes.

Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a legal document that designates another person to make decisions on someone’s behalf after a person becomes incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves. That person will act as an agent on behalf of that other person to make financial or health care decisions, pay bills, invest, rent or sell property, among other decisions. A durable power of attorney is revocable at any time the person creating the document has decisional capacity.

A power of attorney is revocable by oral statement or destruction of the document. A durable power of attorney differs from a living will in that a power of attorney allows that person to use his or her own judgment, rather than following specific instructions spelled out in a living will. Contacting an attorney to assist with wills and other important estate planning tools can help fulfill a person’s exact wishes after she becomes unable to make decisions on her own.