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Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney is an important document that every person of legal age should establish. This form appoints a person, known as the attorney-in-fact or agent, to make health care decisions on your behalf if you aren't able to do so.

Establishing a medical power of attorney isn't difficult or expensive. People often use services of their lawyer to assign power of attorney rights, but there are many other ways to setup this document.

Power of attorney forms can usually be obtained from hospitals, physicians, long term care facilities, state health organizations, and through online legal services like LegalZoom and Nolo.com.

One thing to consider is health care proxies contain directives regarding life and death situations, literally. Personally, I'd rather talk to a lawyer than fill in the blanks of a preformatted form. The choice is completely yours, but if you go it alone at least spend time becoming educated about the process.

Another consideration is selecting the person to act as the attorney-in-fact. Medical POA covers a lot of territory, so agents need to be someone you can trust to make decisions based on your desires. They should also be someone who will go to bat for you if conflict arises amongst other family members or health care providers.

Medical power of attorney grants considerable authority to agents. It allows them to consent, refuse consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatments, procedures, or services. Physicians have to abide by instructions provided by agents or transfer you to another doctor.

Medical POA does not give agents authority to consent to certain types of treatments and services including: abortion, shock therapy treatment, psychosurgery, or having you placed into an inpatient mental health facility.

Power of attorney becomes effective once it's delivered to the attorney-in-fact. However, agents cannot make decisions until your physician certifies that you are incompetent. Doctors are required by law to retain the certification in your medical record, as well as record when you are no longer considered incompetent.

The attorney-in-fact can be changed at any time by revoking power of attorney privileges and creating a new POA form to appoint another person. It can be helpful to designate a primary and secondary agent, so that if something prevents the primary agent from assuming responsibilities, the secondary agent can quickly take over.

In addition to establishing medical power of attorney, individuals may also find it helpful to execute a durable power of attorney and/or limited power of attorney. Durable POA grants authorization to make financial decisions and engage in the sale, purchase, or trade of real estate, motor vehicles, investment products, and business assets.

Limited power of attorney grants permission to engage in specific transactions for a certain amount of time. This type of document can be used to authorize your agent to make contributions into a retirement account, file a tax return, or sell your car.

At Simon Volkov, we have compiled a thorough estate planning article library to help visitors learn about available strategies and ways to protect estate assets. We invite you to learn more about the importance of engaging in estate planning and establishing a medical power of attorney, along with the other types of POA and their uses.