Health Care Power of Attorney

In the case that you are too sick to communicate your wishes about your medical care, it may be wise to appoint a health care power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy. This will ensure that your health care decisions will not be left to someone who has no idea what you prefer. To create this document, the government only requires that you are 18 years of age or older, and that you are sound of mind.

Each state differs as to what information should be included in a health care power of attorney, so it is best to turn to an estate planning lawyer in your area to find out how you should proceed. Almost every state, however, requires that you include the following information:

  • Your contact information
  • Contact information of your proxy and a substitute proxy
  • Duration of the powers
  • Any special instructions
  • Your signature and the signature of your proxy
  • Signatures of at least two adult witnesses

It is also recommended that your lawyer be present for the drafting of your power of attorney. They can review the document to make sure that all the necessary material is there and that the document meets all your needs.

Duration of Health Care Power of Attorney

Your health care proxy will begin making decisions on your behalf once your doctor determines that you don't have the capacity to make decisions. This may happen if you are no longer able to understand the choices before you, or you can't communicate your wishes.

If you would not like your doctor to decide when the power of attorney goes into effect, then you may be able to allow your health care power of attorney to take effect immediately after it is signed. That way, the proxy can act without the consent of the doctor. If you would like your document to be effective immediately, then you must specifically express that in your document.

The power of attorney will come to an end in a few different situations. First, your proxy will no longer have authority once you pass away, but only while you are alive. If you revoke the document while you are still sound of mind, then the document will also have no effect. Once you cancel your health care power of attorney, make sure to inform your doctor.

The court could invalidate your power of attorney if someone disputes you proxy's actions or questions the validity of the document. In some states, if you get a divorce and you appointed your former spouse as your proxy, then it will automatically become invalidated.

Duties of a Health Care Proxy

By law, a health care proxy must act in accordance with the wishes of the grantor. As the grantor's representative, it is important that the proxy carries out the following responsibilities:

  • Preparing for health care decisions: a proxy should discuss the grantor's wishes in addition to reviewing the power of attorney.
  • Obtaining necessary medical information: this includes talking with physicians, reviewing medical documents, evaluating treatment options, scheduling the appropriate tests, and transferring the patient to the appropriate facility.
  • Advocate for the patient: stay informed as to the doctor's recommendations. If the health care represenative suspect that a doctor's advice is not correct, do the necessary research and ask questions. Doctors can be guilty of negligence and malpractice and it the health care proxy's job to defend the patient.
  • Communicate with the patient's family: even though the health care proxy has the power to make decisions, it is important to keep communication lines open with the family. This can reduce conflict and disputes in the future.

Drafting a Health Care Power of Attorney

To create a healthcare power of attorney that fulfills all your wishes, talk to an estate planning lawyer near you. A skilled legal representative will be able to guide you through the process and make sure that your document conforms to the state's laws. An attorney can also help you dispute a loved one's health care power of attorney if you believe that it is invalid or the health care proxy is not acting in accordance with their wishes.