When to Use

  • Your health may be at risk due to an upcoming surgery or procedure.
  • You are aging or your health is declining.
  • You want to appoint someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf and carry out your wishes in case you become ill.

Other Names for This Document

  • Healthcare proxy
  • Healthcare surrogate
  • Medical POA
Consider using our living will instead. A living will (also called an advance directive) is used to explain your healthcare preferences, and it also includes a healthcare power of attorney for your convenience.

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Help Guide

Use our healthcare power of attorney to designate someone you trust to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf. It is important to have a healthcare power of attorney if you have been diagnosed with a serious illness. Even if you are still healthy now, it is smart to protect yourself in case something should happen to you.

Agent and Other Appointments

In your state, this person may be called your agent, proxy, representative, or something similar. Your agent is legally required to follow your directions listed in the document as well as any other wishes you communicate to him or her. You can also use LegalNature's living will form, which includes a healthcare power of attorney in it, to specify your wishes concerning the treatment you receive if you become too sick to speak for yourself.

Your healthcare agent needs to be at least 18 years old and mentally competent to follow your directions. In addition, read your document for any additional state-specific requirements. Many states prevent you from appointing your physician or an employee of your healthcare provider as your agent. If you are unsure, it is best to appoint someone who does not fall into these categories and someone you trust to carry out your wishes no matter what.

In addition, LegalNature's healthcare power of attorney allows you the option to appoint a guardian of your person or estate should you need one. You can also elect to designate your primary physician and your wishes concerning organ donation and burial.

Executing your Healthcare Power of Attorney

It is very important that you read the ENTIRE document before signing. Not only are you delegating important authority to your agent that you need to be aware of, but there are many places that require you to initial next to your choices. Initialing is required to both indicate your choice and to prove your wishes in the event there is ever a dispute. Once you are sure you have read the document and indicated your healthcare choices, simply sign and date where applicable and follow the witnessing requirements below.

Witnessing Requirements

Some states only require the signatures of two witnesses OR a notary. However, it is best (and we highly recommend) to have two disinterested witnesses AND a notary sign your power of attorney. Please refer to the state-by-state witnessing requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a healthcare agent or proxy?

A healthcare agent or proxy is appointed by you to oversee your medical care and to make decisions for you regarding treatment if you are unable to do so. This could be because of an emergency or an ongoing illness or condition and does not eliminate the need for your living will. In some states, this person is appointed as part of your advance directive. In others, you will need to complete separate paperwork appointing someone to this role.

Your advance directive is comprehensive, but it still does not cover every possible scenario or circumstance. In some cases, your medical status and treatment needs could change from hour to hour.

A healthcare agent or proxy can step in and make decisions for you, particularly for areas that are not covered by your advance directive. While this person does have the power to decide aspects of your care, he or she is not permitted to go against your advance directive. The agent’s role is to make sure your wishes are followed in situations that you did not anticipate or that are not covered by your advance directive.

Depending on where you live, the healthcare agent could also be called a proxy, attorney-in-fact, surrogate, or patient advocate. In addition to making decisions about your care, this person can usually

  • make decisions that are not covered in your advance directive,
  • go to court on your behalf to enforce your advance directive,
  • hire additional doctors or find new doctors who will work on your treatment plan,
  • access your medical records, and
  • visit you in the hospital or healthcare setting.

Finally, note that some states combine the living will and the durable power of attorney for healthcare into one document called an "advance healthcare directive."

When should I use a healthcare power of attorney?

You should consider using a healthcare power of attorney when you create your advance healthcare directive. Your state may allow you to do so as part of the advance directive or may require you to create this as a separate document. Take these steps when age, illness, or other concerns present themselves, or when you want to have peace of mind about your care in the future. While age-related issues or even those caused by illness can be predictable, accidents and injuries are not. If you are concerned about your wishes being followed, then this is a good step to take.

A healthcare power of attorney can further ensure your wishes are followed by appointing someone to be proactive in enforcing your advance directive and making decisions for you when an unexpected medical situation occurs. This person can also visit you in the hospital or facility and access your records to work on your behalf. It is important to name someone you trust to this role in order to ensure that your wishes are followed; both your written wishes and your stated preferences can be supported by your healthcare agent.

If you do not specify a healthcare agent with a healthcare power of attorney, the court may be forced to step in and appoint a conservator. Although courts often try to appoint close family members to this role, there is a chance that this person will be a stranger who has no idea of your wishes, beyond any advance directive, and no way of knowing what you would truly want in any given situation.

What is included in a healthcare power of attorney?

This document clearly outlines your preferences for the person who will act as your healthcare agent in the event that you are not able to make your own medical care decisions. You will appoint someone to the role of healthcare agent, allowing them to make decisions on your behalf, to access your medical records as needed, and to help enforce your wishes as outlined in your advance directive. This form makes a legal contract between you and your designated agent and allows them to act on your behalf.

You will need to sign this form and have it witnessed. Depending on where you live, this could be incorporated into your advance directive or be a separate document.

What is a healthcare agent required to do?

Your healthcare agent or proxy is legally able to make decisions for you about your care, provided those decisions do not conflict with your advance directive. They are also able to view your healthcare records, visit you in the hospital or facility, and make determinations about your providers and team.

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Checklist

Step 1: Communicate Your Wishes

It is recommended that you discuss your healthcare power of attorney with your agent and any others named in the document. This could include one or more named guardians or physicians. Doing so will help ensure that your wishes are clearly communicated and understood at the time of signing.

Step 2: Review and Sign

Next, review your document and make any final changes or clarifications. Follow your state's witnessing requirements when signing, which are included with the instructions attached to the end of the downloaded document. Most states require either a notary or two disinterested persons to witness the principal sign.

Step 3: Distribute Copies

All parties named in the document should receive a copy of the power of attorney once it is fully executed.

Step 4: Periodically Review and Update

The principal will need to review the document and make any needed updates at least every couple of years. Life events often cause the principal's needs and wishes to change over time. Our healthcare power of attorney will automatically revoke your original power of attorney while allowing you to update your wishes.

Step 5: Revoke Your Agent's Authority (Optional)

In the event that you wish to terminate your agent's authority to act on your behalf, you need to complete a revocation of power of attorney form. However, if you simply wish to change or add agents, then you should create a new power of attorney.