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What is the difference in a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal document through which one may appoint someone else to make healthcare decisions for them. The maker of a healthcare Power of Attorney may name as many alternate decision makers as he or she wishes and may elect to make their authority become effective immediately or only upon the maker's incapacity.

A Living Will is a legal document whereby the maker may state his or her wishes concerning medical treatment including whether he desires to be kept alive by a respirator, feeding tube, or any other artificial means. Several years ago, the Schiavo case in Florida raised public awareness for the need for Living Wills when the patient's husband disagreed with the patient's parents concerning whether the patient wanted to be kept alive on a feeding tube. If the patient had executed a Living Will prior to becoming incapacitated, her wishes would have been known and presumably followed.

Under Mississippi law, the Healthcare Power of Attorney and the Living Will are combined and are known collectively as an Advance Healthcare Directive which is inexpensive to prepare, but extremely valuable if needed.

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The Mississippi court determines child custody based on the best interests of the child. The court can award sole or joint custody, and if the child is 12 years old or older, the court considers the wishes of the child.
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