I think the only good thing that will come out of the Terry Schiavo case is that thousands of people will finally understand exactly how important things like a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare are. If Terry and her husband had executed these documents when they were first married, none of this would be happening now.
Please, please, please. If you’re following this case, and you’ve found yourself saying “If I’m ever like that, pull the plug,” you must draw up a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, or no one will be able to do what you want them to do.
There are other reasons for a DPA. Do you own a web site? A business? Are you a guardian for someone, or a trustee for a financial trust of some sort? If you don”t have your instructions written down, and if people aren’t given power of attorney to do what you want or need done, then things can fall apart very quickly. Without the legal authority from you do make business decisions, or sign documents in your name, or write checks in your name, everything you’ve worked for can be lost.
Advance Directives can be very broad or very limited in their scope. A DPA is designed so that it only goes into effect if you are incapacitated in some way, such that you can’t make your wishes known to others. It can be limited to finances, or health care. You can give one person POA over your finances, and another person POA over your healthcare decisions. You can set it up so that three people have POA, and all (or just two) must agree in writing to whatever action is taken.
But without these documents, you could well end up as the next Terry Schiavo.