It’s important to account and plan for the possibility that you might need someone to make decisions regarding your health in the future. This is typically part of estate planning. A probate lawyer can help you draft and sign the necessary documents to ensure the right person is legally responsible should something happen to you. Read on for more on medical power of attorney and why you should include it in your estate planning.
Medical Power of Attorney Defined
A medical power of attorney, or a medical POA, is an advanced directive that addresses medical decisions. It is a legal document that allows you to identify a person who will have authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. This document is referred to if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.
Unlike regular power of attorney, medical power of attorney is a durable power of attorney. This means that it does not come into effect unless you are incapacitated. This allows for peace of mind in the knowledge that you will always retain control of your own medical decisions unless you are completely unable to communicate on your own behalf.
What Happens Without a Medical Power of Attorney?
Even if you are confident that your loved ones will take care of you if something happens to your health, a medical power of attorney is important. It can be a heavy burden on family members who have to decide who can make legal decisions. Conflicts can easily arise between loved ones who remember or interpret your instructions differently. Medical power of attorney avoids these situations. Additionally, state laws vary, and may give one person priority over another if there is no medical power of attorney in place. This could potentially be against your wishes, so it is best to be prepared.
How Does Medical Power of Attorney Work?
A medical power attorney is used only in the case of serious medical conditions. This can include falling into a coma, losing power of communication due to accident or disease, or having a major lapse in mental health. Only a doctor is able to decide whether a medical power of attorney applies given your situation. If they determine you are unable to speak for yourself, your medical power of attorney allows your agent to take control.
Your medical power of attorney is authorized to make medical decisions related to:
- Doctor visits
- Treatment levels
- Life support
- Medical tests
Choosing an Agent
Choosing an agent for your medical POA is the most important choice. The person you select should be someone you trust with your life. Take some time to evaluate your options and ensure you are making a wise decision. Your agent may be tasked with making some extremely difficult decisions. It is important to choose someone that will be able to handle the stress and responsibility. Consider family dynamics, emotional wellness, and any other factors that you think could be an obstacle. Your agent should be someone close to you that has a history of good judgement and life choices.
Who Should I Choose?
People often choose adult children, spouses, longtime partners, or closest, long-term friends. Whatever their role in your life may be, the most important thing is trust. For instance, if you know your spouse might have a difficult time carrying out your intention – such as removing a feeding tube in the event of loss of brain activity – you may want to consider choosing someone else. Your agent should be able to fully understand your wishes, discuss your wishes with you, and put aside their personal feelings about the medical procedures you do and do not want to undergo. Before designating this person, make sure you have discussed the responsibility thoroughly with them.
How Can I Get a Medical Power of Attorney?
The best way to obtain your medical power of attorney is by working with a probate lawyer. This person can help you cover all of your bases and ensure that your forms are properly filed. This process varies, but generally might consist of the following:
- Selecting of an agent
- Filling out the proper medical of attorney forms
- Notarizing your forms
- Distributing copies of your medical POA
- Updating your forms according to life changes
This process can be consuming and complicated. There is a lot of jargon and legal language that can make it difficult to navigate this process. Working with a probate attorney is the best way to guarantee you have completed the process properly and legally and designated the ideal person to make medical choices on your behalf.
Choose an Experienced Probate Lawyer
Now that you have made the wise decision to create a medical POA, you will need to choose a lawyer. Do some research and ask around. Chances are you may know someone who has had a positive experience with an attorney in drafting their own medical POA. Online reviews will also be helpful. Schedule consultations and make sure you are working with an attorney you can trust.
It’s best to work with a wills and estates lawyer who has experience in this area and who can help you develop a comprehensive plan. Your attorney should take an interest in helping you choose the best person for the job and putting all of the essential documents in place.
Consider Local Estate Laws
State laws come into play when it comes to medical POA. That’s why it is critical that you work with a local probate attorney who knows the laws in your region. For example, in Maryland, a medical power of attorney is part of a comprehensive document called the . This document also includes a living will. In some states, this process is different, so in this case, choosing an experienced Maryland wills and estates lawyer would be critical.