The importance of a healthcare power of attorney

September 21, 2020
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What happens if illness, injury, or age-related dementia renders you unable to make decisions or communicate your wishes regarding your healthcare or financial affairs? Unless your estate plan addresses these situations, your family may be forced to seek a court-appointed guardian. Healthcare arrangements are particularly important because your wishes won’t necessarily coincide with someone else’s judgment about what’s “in your best interests.”

To help ensure that your wishes are carried out, create a healthcare power of attorney (HCPOA). Sometimes referred to as a “healthcare proxy” or “durable medical power of attorney,” an HCPOA appoints a representative to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so.

Choose a representative

Who should be your representative? The natural inclination may be to name your spouse or an adult child. This may be the right choice, but not always.

Consider whether the family member has a differing view on when to continue or terminate life-sustaining measures or would find it too difficult to make such decisions. Designate someone you trust to carry out your wishes.

Detail your healthcare-related wishes

Your HCPOA should provide guidance on how to make healthcare decisions. Although it’s impossible to anticipate every potential scenario, the document can provide your representative with guiding principles.

For example: What are your desired health outcomes? Is your top priority to extend your life? Is artificial nutrition or hydration an option? Under what circumstances should life-sustaining treatment be withheld or terminated?

Additional documents

Another important document to have in place is a living will — which communicates your preferences regarding life-sustaining medical treatment in the event you are dying of a terminal condition or an end-stage condition. Also consider a revocable trust and durable power of attorney to provide for a trusted representative to manage your financial affairs in the event you’re unable to do so.

Need help sorting it all out? Contact Leslie below with any questions you have.

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