Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive – What’s the difference?

by Matthew Carrucci — Feb 9, 2024

You’ve probably heard of these, but you might not know what they are, or how they are different, or when one or the other is needed. Let’s take a look at each:

A Power of Attorney gives another person (your “Agent”) the ability to manage your finances, property and personal affairs, following your written instructions.

An Advance Medical Directive gives your Agent the ability to help with your medical care, also following your written instructions.

Your Agent doesn’t make decisions or take any actions unless you are unable to do so.  Typically, this is when you are severely injured, or you’ve reached an age where you can’t take care of yourself without help.

In either situation, it’s important to know that a person you trust will be there to follow the instructions that you gave them.  The two documents go hand-in-hand.  One covers your finances and property, and the other covers your medical care. 

But here’s the catch: you have to create these documents before you need them. It’s not fun to think about these things, but if you reach a point at which you are not mentally competent to understand the documents, it’s too late – you’ve lost the chance to give your own instructions to the person or people you trust to follow them.