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Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney form is required when someone wants to let another person make decisions about their healthcare should they become incompetent. The person charged with this responsibility is designated in the POA form as the attorney-in-fact, but this does not mean they have to be a lawyer.

It's smart to establish medical power of attorney regardless of current health status. Unfortunately, no one knows when an expected illness or tragedy will strike and leave them unable to communicate.

It's also smart to execute this document prior to surgery or other types of invasive medical procedures. This type of power of attorney lets a person provide written directives regarding medical treatments, procedures, and services that they do not want to have.

People that have strong conviction about not being put on life support or receiving IV nutrition to sustain their life definitely need to consider setting up a healthcare POA. Otherwise, physicians have to provide lifesaving treatments regardless of how you or family members feel about those treatments.

Establishing medical power of attorney is relatively simple. Most people use the services of a lawyer, but these forms can also be downloaded via the Internet or obtained through various healthcare facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, and physician offices.

You'll want to give careful thought when selecting the attorney-in-fact. This person needs to be of legal age and is usually a spouse, relative, or close friend. Being someone's healthcare agent can be a heavy burden, so it's a good idea to have a conversation with the person first.

A lot of people find it helpful to meet with a lawyer and have them explain the duties and responsibilities to the intended attorney-in-fact. At the very least, agents should spend time learning about the responsibilities and requirements before accepting the position.

You'll also want to have a long conversation with the attorney-in-fact regarding your healthcare choices. The only way your agent can act on your behalf is by being open about the kind of treatments you do or don't want.

These decisions sometimes lead to conflict amongst family members and healthcare providers. The agent is bound by agreement to stand up for your rights and decisions, regardless of how others feel. Therefore, you'll want to select someone that is strong willed and capable of making decisions that are inline with your desires.

Medical power of attorney allows the attorney-in-fact to have considerable control over treatments and services. Agents can consent to allow or disallow medical procedures, and can withdraw consent at a later time. These decisions cannot be made by the agent until a physician provides written statement that you are incompetent.

If, at any time, you choose to change the attorney-in-fact you'll need to revoke the agent's privileges and establish a new power of attorney form. While state laws vary, most automatically revoke power of attorney rights from a spouse when divorce occurs. It's always best to research state laws to ensure proper protocol is followed.

Setting up a medical power of attorney offers many benefits to you and your family. Without one, relatives are unable to have any say about your care until they attend a court hearing to establish POA rights.

We invite you to learn how to setup a medical power of attorney, along with other types of power of attorney forms in our estate planning article library. We discuss a variety of estate planning strategies to help people safeguard inheritance property and reduce estate taxes.

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Published on October 25, 2011 at 03:54 AM

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