Why do I need a medical power of attorney?
Everyone should have a medical power of attorney. Because you just never know when you might become ill or injured and unable to make medical decisions for yourself. And because these terrible situations can happen at any age, all adults should have one.
What is a medical power of attorney?
It is a written document that authorizes a trusted friend or family member to act as your agent in making medical decisions for you in the event you were to become ill and could not communicate with your doctor. (for financial decisions see Power of Attorney)
Does a medical power of attorney need to be notarized?
To be legally valid it needs to be executed. You can execute it by either getting it notarized or getting it signed by two witnesses.
If you execute your medical power of attorney by getting it signed by two witnesses, then each must be a competent adult. Likewise, at least one of the witnesses must be someone who does not fit any of the descriptions below:
- a person you are designating as your agent to make medical decisions for you;
- someone related to you by blood or marriage;
- a person who would inherit something from your estate upon your death;
- someone who has a claim on your estate;
- your attending physician;
- an employee of your attending physician; or
- an employee of the health care facility that you are in at the time if the employee is providing direct patient care to you or if that employee is an officer, director, partner, or business office employee of the health care facility or of any parent organization of the health care facility.
Getting it notarized rather than getting it signed by two witnesses may hold more authority. This also prevents the possibility of accidentally choosing an ineligible person to be a witness.
What is the difference between a medical power of attorney and a durable power of attorney?
A medical power of attorney gives someone you trust the authority to make medical decisions for you if become ill and cannot communicate with your doctor. A durable power of attorney (see Power of Attorney) authorizes someone you trust to act as your agent in making financial decisions for you in the event you are not able to do so yourself.
What is the difference between a medical power of attorney and a living will?
A medical power of attorney covers all healthcare decisions for you in case you become incapacitated, whether or not you are suffering from a terminal or irreversible condition. A living will is much narrower. It only concerns situations where you are terminally ill or have an irreversible condition.
Should I have both a living will and a medical power of attorney?
Yes, you should. Depending on the wording of your medical power of attorney, there may or may not be some overlap between the two documents. However, if you were to become terminally ill and unable to speak for yourself, then it would be best for you to have your desires concerning life-sustaining treatments for yourself clearly spelled out in a living will.
When does a medical power of attorney become effective?
It is effective after execution and and then delivery to your designated agent. (see “Does a medical power of attorney need to notarized?” above.) Your designated agent is the person who you want to make medical decisions for you. It remains effective indefinitely unless it contains a specific termination date or you revoke it. (see “How can I revoke a medical power of attorney?” below).
When does the designated agent have the authority to make medical decisions for me?
Even if the medical power of attorney is legally effective, the designated agent can make medical decisions for you only if you are certified as incompetent by your attending physician. If you later become competent again, then your agent can no longer exercise this authority.
How can I revoke a medical power of attorney?
You can revoke it by oral or written notification of your intent to revoke to either your designated agent or your health care provider. This kind of revocation will occur regardless of your capacity to make healthcare decisions at the time. You can also revoke it by executing a new medical power of attorney.
If you are married at the time you create a medical power of attorney and your spouse is your designated agent, then a divorce will revoke that power unless the wording in it provides otherwise.
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