A medical power of attorney is a crucial part of your estate plan that enables you to name a trusted person to make healthcare decisions for you if needed. But what does your power of attorney agent need to know to handle your healthcare decisions when you can’t.
Role of Medical Power of Attorney in Estate planning
Even if you are currently the picture of good health, you may suddenly become too ill to make healthcare decisions for yourself or become unconscious after an accident, needing someone to stand in your shoes to make those decisions for you. It is essential for the person you name to have the information necessary to carry out your wishes for your medical care.
What Is a Medical Power of Attorney?
A medical power of attorney, also known as a healthcare power of attorney, is a legal document that enables you to name someone to act as your agent, that is, a person who can make decisions on your behalf. Your agent has a duty to make decisions that you would have made if you had been capable of making them to the extent that the agent knows your wishes. Although most states do not allow one of your healthcare providers to serve as your agent, you are free to choose another mentally competent adult. A medical power of attorney must be in writing and signed before witnesses and/or a notary, depending upon your state’s law. Some states further prohibit your healthcare providers and those who may inherit from you from serving as witnesses. The medical power of attorney will only come into effect if you are unable to communicate your wishes.
What Does Your Agent Need to Know?
Once you have decided who will act as your agent, it is very important to have a serious and honest conversation with that person to help them understand your goals and priorities for your health care, as well as the values you want your agent to follow in making decisions on your behalf. It is also important to provide information that is crucial for your agent to know in order to make decisions regarding your care, preferably in writing.
Preferred providers. You should provide the name, phone number, and address of the doctor you would like to be your attending physician, as well as other physicians and healthcare providers you would prefer to treat you if necessary. Likewise, if there are any physicians or providers you do not wish to treat you, you can furnish a list of those providers as well.
Medical conditions. You should make sure your agent knows about any medical conditions that may impact your care. For example, if you have a medical condition that may cause or appear similar to psychiatric symptoms, you can instruct your agent to have your physician rule out those medical conditions prior to authorizing psychiatric care or treatment.
Treatment and medical history. If you have had surgeries or other medical procedures, give your agent a list of them and the dates they occurred.
Medications. You should provide your agent with a list of all the medications you are taking. Further, if you want your agent to refuse to authorize certain medicines, you should specify that wish.
Allergies. If you have allergies, particularly to medications or foods, provide them to your agent.
Religious beliefs. It is very important to communicate with your agent about your spiritual beliefs and values. These beliefs may affect your choices about the extent or aggressiveness of medical care you would like to receive, whether you would like a chaplain to be part of your medical team, or if there are any religious customs or rites you would like to observe.
Prepare for the Future
Although it is not a pleasant topic to contemplate, it is an unfortunate reality that we may eventually need someone else to make decisions regarding our healthcare. If you already have a medical power of attorney in place, it is important to review it annually. Experienced estate planning attorneys can help you put a comprehensive plan in place to ensure not only that you will receive the medical care you desire, but also that your finances are properly managed, and your family members are provided for and protected. You may be surprised at the peace of mind you can gain by appointing a medical power of attorney, knowing that you are prepared for whatever the future holds.