Many people put it off because they think they don’t need a living will or power of attorney yet. And most people don’t like to think about possible medical emergencies or the end of their own lives. They want to talk about it even less with their (adult) children, friends and partners. But if nothing is regulated in an emergency, it can be a stressful situation for relatives. Stiftung Warentest gives tips on how everyone can take proper precautions.

Legally, since January 2023, the spouse’s emergency representation right has applied to people who live in a marriage or registered civil partnership (§ 1353 BGB). Afterwards, the partner can make health decisions for the other in medical emergencies. This applies for a maximum of six months. Spouses can also use this right to take over communication with the health insurance company and the nursing care insurance company.

Stiftung Warentest also advises married people to have a power of attorney for health care. This regulates who can make which decisions if you are no longer able to do so or are only able to do so to a limited extent. In addition to health decisions, this also includes financial matters. Anyone authorized by a power of attorney can act on behalf of the person who issued the power of attorney. The authorized representative makes important life decisions for the person granting the power of attorney. Stiftung Warentest advises everyone aged 18 and over to have a power of attorney for health care.

If you want to grant a power of attorney for health care, you do not have to commit to one person. Several people can also be authorized. However, Stiftung Warentest advises defining different areas of responsibility or determining in advance who has the final say in the event of a dispute.

If a person is not married and has not made any arrangements, the care court is called in by the hospital in a medical emergency, which appoints a caretaker. As a rule, the court appoints a close person to look after you. If there are no relatives or friends, the court will appoint a stranger.

Anyone can write a power of attorney themselves, whether typed or written down by hand. It is valid with the date and signature. A notary is not necessary, informs Stiftung Warentest. However, she recommends pre-printed forms so that all important points are included and everything is clearly formulated. This is offered, for example, by Stiftung Warentest or the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Another important document in the medical field is the living will. Each person can regulate which medical measures doctors should and should not take at the end of life. The living will only really comes into play at the end of life, i.e. in hopeless illness situations in which doctors can only take life-prolonging measures.

A patient’s written wishes are binding for doctors. Important: The living will only comes into effect when a person is no longer able to express themselves permanently. This means: If a person is put into an artificial coma for medical reasons, a living will does not apply, Stiftung Warentest informs.

Like the power of attorney, a living will can be written by hand, on the computer or using a form. If it is dated and signed, it is valid. However, Stiftung Warentest recommends using prefabricated forms so that they actually contain medical instructions – doctors can only adhere to these.

Such forms are available from Stiftung Warentest or the Federal Ministry of Justice, among others. If you need help filling out a living will because you are not familiar with the medical terms, you can seek advice from your family doctor.

You can find the complete guide for a fee at Stiftung Warentest!