Heart-wrenching stories are told by medical staff about families making difficult decisions about loved ones who are teetering on the edge of life. Those families are scarred by impossible decisions. You can help your family avoid that trauma by planning ahead. The best way to do that is with a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA).

What is a Living Will?

First and foremost, a Living Will is a document. This document describes what you want or don’t want in a medical emergency to keep you technically alive. It is different from a Tennessee Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POLST) [previously known as a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)] from a medical professional. The Living Will includes things like ventilators and feeding tubes. The DNR will involve CPR.

What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A HCPOA designates a person and provides instructions. This person is one that you choose. Ideally, you will communicate with this person what is in your Living Will and even POLST order. You want to choose a HCPOA agent who knows you well and with whom you trust to make decisions that you would make if you could. This person may also be able to make decisions concerning an autopsy and burial.

How do these work together?

Tennessee law allows you to choose if the HCPOA or the Living Will dominates when there is a conflict. Here at Elder Law of Middle Tennessee, we give the HCPOA more power than the Living Will. This is why.


Twenty years ago, you may have drafted a Living Will stating that under no circumstances do you want a ventilator to keep you alive. But you did not know about COVID. You did not know about medical advances. However, your HCPOA agent would know that. In the crucial moment, your HCPOA agent could read your Living Will and decide that with what they know now about disease and medical technology, you could be on a ventilator for a short time and recover completely. They may choose to override that document and make a decision that they think you would if you could.

Honestly, both work best together.

We Can Help

The good news is that you have options, and more options are available to you the earlier that you start your planning. Please let us help you to evaluate your individual needs and develop a plan that will give you peace of mind for whatever comes your way.

For more information, contact our Lebanon, TN office at 615-444-3568 and schedule your appointment today.