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 medical power of attorney for your convenience.

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Help Guide

Use our medical power of attorney to designate someone you trust to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf. It is important to have a medical 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.

Appointing an Agent

Depending upon 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 our living will form, which includes a healthcare power of attorney in it, to specify your wishes concerning 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 is someone you trust to carry out your wishes no matter what.

Your healthcare agent needs to be someone you know and trust. They need to have excellent judgment and be able to communicate clearly with your family and your healthcare team and be confident enough to enforce your wishes. If you are elderly, then the ideal person for your healthcare agent may not be your equally elderly spouse; if they become incapacitated, you will have no one left to fulfill this role.

You need to be able to talk to and trust the agent you appoint to this role. You should be sure that they understand your wishes and will be able to act on your behalf when and if the time comes. Your agent needs to be able to act and make decisions for you even in a time of stress and even if other family members do not agree. Choosing the right person for this role will give you peace of mind about the process and help ensure that your wishes are followed.

Successor Agents

It is important to have multiple potential agents as backup to represent the principal's healthcare interests in case the primary agent is unable or unwilling to act on the principal's behalf when needed. This may occur for various reasons. A potential agent could be unable to represent the principal because they themselves become incapacitated due to health reasons. Or perhaps a potential agent may be unwilling to represent the principal because they lose confidence in their ability to effectively deal with the principal's affairs.

Whatever the circumstances may be, appointing successor agents allows you to establish a contingency plan for alternative agents who may also represent the principal if potential agents are unable or unwilling to do so. If you choose to add these successor agents to the power of attorney, these successor agents will be clearly identified within the appropriately titled sections by his or her name, address, and phone number to avoid any confusion over identity.

Other Appointments

In addition, the power of attorney allows you the option to appoint a guardian of your person or estate. You will need a guardian to help manage your personal affairs in the event that you become incapacitated. Appointing a guardian that you know and trust is usually preferred over a guardian appointed by a court (who does not necessarily always have your best interests in mind). 

Lastly, you can also elect to designate your primary physician and your wishes concerning organ donation and burial.

Executing Your Medical 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 in front of the required witnesses.

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.

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Checklist

Step 1: Communicate Your Wishes

It is recommended that you discuss your medical 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. LegalNature's medical 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.