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Why You Need a Health Care Power of Attorney

Why use a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A health care power of attorney is a good way to avoid leaving a costly legal nightmare for your loved ones should an unfortunate accident or illness incapacitate you. Together with a well devised estate plan, it may avoid forcing your family into probate court and use of expensive attorneys.

How Can a Healthcare Power of Attorney be Drafted?

Although, a health care power of attorney does not have to be drafted by an attorney, if you are unsure of what you are doing, an attorney can affordably prepare one for you as part of your estate plan. A health care power of attorney can be drafted efficiently if circumstances permit. Unfortunately, if you are already incapacitated or not mentally competent enough to execute the health care power of attorney, the only remedy may be to petition the probate court to appoint a guardian and/or conservator, which can take time and may require attorneys and unnecessarily add legal costs. It is required that the individual be 18 years old and have the requisite mental capacity to execute the document.

Select a Patient Advocate

Selection of the patient advocate is relatively simple and usually a spouse, child, parent, sibling or close relative or friend is selected. The importance of this selection should not be overlooked, however. This is, of course, the person who will literally be making life and death decisions on your behalf within the constructs of the guidance given in the power of attorney for health care document. The patient advocate should be someone you trust to carry out your guidance. You should consult with the person before naming them as your patient advocate. Also, you should select an alternate patient advocate in case the primary is unwilling or unable to do so. Remember that the patient advocate may only act when you are incapacitated so that you cannot make your own decisions and should you regain your capacity to make decisions, the power of your patient advocate is removed.

Other Requirements

The statute provides that you may include a statement of your desires on care, custody, and medical treatment or mental health treatment, or both. A patient advocate designation may also include a statement of your desires on the making of an anatomical gift of all or part of the patient's body. The power of attorney for health care requires your signature, with two witnesses. There are many persons who are excluded under the statute from acting as a witness. Additionally, the person selected as the patient advocate must acknowledge acceptance of his or her duties as a patient advocate once the duties are required that are specifically laid out in the statute. The document may also include a section for the principal to reaffirm the power of attorney for health care so that anyone presented the document will know that you have reviewed the document and reaffirmed your decisions.

Give a Copy to Your Healthcare Provider

Once you have given the power of attorney for health care to your physician, hospital or other health care provider, the health care provider should make the document part of your health records.