A medical power of attorney is used to name someone you trust to act on your behalf in making medical decisions in the event that you become ill or otherwise incapable. Those with serious illnesses or conditions are highly recommended to maintain an up-to-date medical power of attorney. However, every adult should make a power of attorney to protect themselves against accidents and emergencies.
Some states call this individual your agent, proxy, or representative. The law requires agents to always act according to your instructions stated in your power of attorney or otherwise communicated to them. You can also consider using our living will, which includes a medical power of attorney with it, in order to state your treatment preferences.
Agents must be at least 18 years old and able to follow your directions. Your document will detail any additional rules required in your state. For instance, some states prohibit you from appointing your physician or an employee of your healthcare provider as your agent.
You should have a high level of trust in the person you appoint as your agent. Also, they should be organized and good at communicating with your loved ones and medical team. Note that if your agent is older or in poor health, then by appointing them you are risking that they will not be able to serve as your agent. Still, you should name multiple individuals as backup agents in your power of attorney in case this occurs.
It is vital that you discuss your expectations and medical preferences with your agent. This will help ensure that they understand what will be required of them and will be prepared to act. The circumstances surrounding your incapacity may be very demanding and stressful on your agent. This is why selecting an appropriate agent is important for giving you peace of mind and ensuring your preferences will be followed correctly.
As mentioned previously, it is possible that your first choice agent will be unavailable to serve. For instance, they may have become ill or have passed away. Other times, an agent may simply decide that they no longer wish to serve or are not qualified enough to act appropriately under the circumstances.
Whatever the situation may be, naming successor agents will provide a contingency plan if your first choice cannot serve. Your power of attorney should clearly identify each agent and successor agent by their full names and contact information in order to avoid any possible mix up concerning their identity.
You will also have the opportunity to name a guardian. This is the person who will be responsible for managing your personal affairs if you become incapacitated. It is recommended that you appoint a guardian who knows you well and who you are confident will act in your best interests. If you do not, then you may end up with a court-appointed guardian who acts more in their interest than your own.
Finally, you have the option of naming your primary physician as well as your preferences regarding organ donation and burial or cremation.
It is extremely important that you read through the whole document before signing. You need to know and understand every aspect of your power of attorney, as the power you are giving your agent can drastically affect your life and wellbeing. Additionally, certain sections of the document require that you initial next to your preferences in order to prove that you have read them. After reading through the entire document, you will sign and date until you are in the presence of the appropriate witnesses.
Each state has different witnessing requirements, but we recommend that you use two witnesses and a notary public regardless of your state’s rules. This will provide you with extra protection in the event there is ever a dispute regarding your preferences.
Be sure to communicate all your medical preferences with your agent and any physicians and guardians you plan on appointing. While such discussions can be stressful and disheartening, this is essential for ensuring that your wishes will be carried out.
Read the entire power of attorney prior to signing and make any final edits. Review your state's witnessing requirements. For your convenience, we have included these in the instructions attached to your document. Note that for extra protection we recommend always using two witnesses and a notary public regardless of the minimum number of witnesses required in your state.
Provide a copy of the fully signed and witnessed document to your agent, successor agents, and any named physicians or guardians. Also, find a safe place to store a hard copy and/or electronic copy.
You should occasionally re-read your power of attorney every year or so to determine if your preferences have changed. Major life events may change your medical circumstances. By signing a new medical power of attorney form from our site, your previous power of attorney will automatically be revoked.
Use a revocation of power of attorney form in order to revoke your agent’s power to make decisions for you. Keep in mind that you can simply sign a new power of attorney if you want to change or add agents, which will also revoke your prior power of attorney.