Planning in life will always benefit you since having a good end-of-life plan in place may be quite beneficial to you, your wife, or your children. So it’s a good idea to set up a medical power of attorney in addition to getting your financial affairs in order through the estate planning process. This is a legal document that will appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf. It is also known as a healthcare power of attorney or durable power of attorney for healthcare. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever need it, having this paperwork in place will provide you peace of mind.
What Is Exactly a Medical Power of Attorney?
It’s easy to make decisions about your medical treatment when you’re in the perfect state of mind. However, there may come a time when you are unable to make your own decisions because of your illness. Perhaps you are unconscious as a result of a serious medical condition, or you have dementia or Alzheimer’s. In case of any such disease, someone else must make decisions on your behalf.
A Medical Power Of Attorney empowers a family member or friend to make medical decisions on your behalf. These choices could range from which treatment option to pursue to whether or not to artificially prolong your life.
What Is The Difference Between A Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will?
A living will and a medical power of attorney are not the same. A living will is a written document that specifies what you want doctors to do if you become incapacitated. This could apply to various solutions according to an array of situations, such as the implementation of:
- Support for life
- Feeding through a tube
- Attempts to save a life
- Donating organs
Although medical power of attorney is also described in writing, it does not simply record your wishes as a living will do. Rather, it appoints a specific person to make these decisions. If such a situation arises, your agent will field questions and concerns from doctors about your health-related issues, including end-of-life plans like hospice. These individuals are tasked with deciding the next steps based on these conversations and other insights.
You may have both a living will and a medical power of attorney. If decisions about bringing you back to life and life support are required, recording those wishes in a living will remove those difficult decisions from your agent’s hands.
Things You Need to Keep in Mind While Choosing Your Agent
It’s time to find your agent after you’ve completed all the necessary steps to grant medical power of attorney. It’s common to choose a spouse, parent, or child, but you’re not obligated to any person or relative to do so.
While looking for someone to serve as your healthcare agent, you should look for someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing your medical issues. You should select someone you trust with your life and who expressly agrees to accept this responsibility if and when the time comes.
This person should be your advocate and follow your wishes. They should be able to make sound and tough decisions, even if your friends and family advise against that decision.
The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Commission on Law and Aging recommends working with an agent you can rely on. It also includes some general guidelines for agents that you should avoid:
- Don’t pick your healthcare provider or the owner of a health or residential facility where you are being cared for.
- Avoid anyone who is married to or works for someone currently serving you medically, such as a doctor or the owner of a residential facility.
- Never choose someone whose job is to evaluate your medical condition, such as a doctor or a specialist.
- Never choose someone who works for a government agency financially responsible for your care, unless they are a blood relative.
- Choose someone who isn’t the same as your court-appointed guardian or conservator.
- Selecting someone who is already a healthcare agent for more than ten people is a bad idea.
A “healthcare proxy” is a term used in some states to describe an agent. The qualifications for this role vary slightly from state to state, so make sure you meet the requirements for your state.
The Documents You’ll Need For a Medical Power of Attorney
Now it’s time to make things official after you’ve found an agent. A variety of medical power of attorney templates is available for free download on the internet. They are frequently delivered in PDF format, which makes them easily printable.
Two backup agents are typically assigned to these guides. This is an essential additional step. If your medical power of attorney is unable to make decisions on your behalf, one of the backups will do so. So just use the same vetting process you have already used to make your first choice to ensure you don’t make rash decisions with these choices.
To sign your documents, you’ll probably need two witnesses who aren’t your agent or backup agents. So you could look for a notary public in your area. Some banks offer free notaries, or you may know someone who can notarize documents. If you can’t find one near you, check out the American Association of Notaries.
Few people relish the thought of being unable to make medical decisions on their own. However, creating a medical power of attorney document can provide you with the assurance that a trusted friend or loved one is looking out for your best interests.
A medical power of attorney will provide you far more flexibility than a living will, which addresses a few scenarios and requires you to make decisions about hypothetical situations.
The most important aspect of this process, however, is selecting an agent in whom you have complete faith. I hope this article will help you understand the process of setting up a medical power of attorney and choosing a health agent in a much simpler way.