Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney is an easy way of appointing
someone to handle your health care decisions if you cannot.

Mother and father with daughter creating health care power of attorney with a lawyer.

A health care power of attorney is a critical and necessary part of every estate plan. It is a document that authorizes an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf. Several types of health care decisions are usually authorized, including medical treatment, selection of doctors, living arrangements / nursing home placement and other decisions related to your physical person and well-being.

The surrogate decision maker designated in your health care power of attorney can only make decisions when you are unable to communicate for yourself. A competent principal can overrule any decision made by a health care agent.

Most powers of attorney are “springing” powers, requiring a declaration of medical incapacity before the agent has any authority. Health care powers of attorney, however, are frequently effective immediately, especially if the principal is older or has a known medical condition. A durable health care power of attorney avoids the need to have a guardian appointed if you become incapacitated.

States use a variety of different names for this document. Content also varies widely. For example, in many states, a health care power of attorney also includes instructions regarding end-of-life care that were traditionally placed in a living will. Generally, if you permanently relocate to a different state, you should sign a new document prepared in accordance with that state’s laws and procedures.

You should make several copies of your health care power of attorney. A medical facility will generally require that a copy of it to be on file prior to any procedure being conducted. In addition to providing one to your designated agent and physician, you should always take a copy with you on vacation. As a backup plan, take a clear photograph of your health care power of attorney with your cell phone so that you always have a copy with you.

Like a financial power of attorney, the authority granted by a health care power of attorney ends with your passing, with two exceptions. Health care agents usually have the authority to approve organ donations and direct the disposition of your remains.

Cover of the PDF Powers of Attorney

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