making healthcare decisions for family

Whether due to disease, injury or simple aging, you may someday be left incapacitated and in need of assistance in obtaining necessary medical care. To prevent the prospect of a doctor or hospital official making critical choices when you are unable to do so, you can create a health care power of attorney that puts such decisions in the hands of a person you trust.

A health care power of attorney is a formal instrument, authorized by state statute, by which you can appoint a relative or close friend to make healthcare decisions if you become mentally or physically incapacitated. The person appointed (known as a healthcare agent or proxy) is authorized to make decisions ranging from whether or not to give you medical treatment for a given condition to whether life-sustaining measures should be taken if you fall into a permanent vegetative state.

A health care power of attorney can be a fundamental part of an estate plan. Similar to a living will, the power can be used to direct your agent to take certain actions in specified scenarios. However, the power is broader in scope, giving the agent discretion to make choices that you would make if able. With a power of attorney in place, a conflict among family members regarding your healthcare is avoided. This can allow for better continuity of care and perhaps prevent a legal battle from arising.

Since a power of attorney may have literal life or death consequences, you should consult a qualified estate planning lawyer to make sure it is prepared carefully and with precision. A healthcare power of attorney must be created according to statutory requirements, which include having it notarized or witnessed by a neutral party. While you are mentally competent, you can revoke the power of attorney at any time for any reason. Sometimes the appointed agent dies, moves away or is otherwise unable or unwilling to perform the required duties. If not revoked or changed, the power of attorney is durable, which means it remains in effect even after you become incapacitated.

The Law Firm of Joseph M. Udall, PLC in Mesa offers one of Arizona’s most experienced attorneys in estate planning matters. If you or a family member would like to execute a health care power of attorney or take other steps to protect your assets and your well-being, please feel free to contact us online or call (480) 500-1866 for an initial consultation.