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Health Powers of Attorney

Durable Power of Attorney

If you have a durable power of attorney which appoints someone to make health care decisions for you, do you still need a living will or other advance directives? The answer is yes. Whether or not you have a power of attorney does not affect the need or desire for a living will or other advance directives. If you do not have a power of attorney, your advance directives will be very helpful in instructing your physician and the hospital as to the care you desire. If you do have a power of attorney, your advance directives will give very important guidance to your attorney-in-fact as to how he or she should act. In fact, you may want to combine your power of attorney, your living will and your other advance directives into one document.

Why Give Advance Directives?

You accomplish at least two things by giving advance directives, regardless of whether they direct all possible treatment, no treatment or only some treatment. First, you ensure that the treatment you receive is the treatment you desire, no more and no less. Second, you take the burden off your family and friends to make those decisions for you at a time when they will most likely be emotionally upset by your critical condition. Finally, you may prevent the use of litigation to determine what treatment you really desired or intended. In any event, it is time well spent.

The Health Care Power of Attorney - Questions and Answers

What is the Health Care Power of Attorney?
  • A written legal document
  • A document signed by the person making the Power of Attorney, known as the Principal
  • The document becomes effective upon the disability of the Principal
  • The document must comply with the laws of the state

Who can make a Health Care Power of Attorney?
Any person who is competent under the law to sign a contract can make a Health Care Power of Attorney.

What does a Health Care Power of Attorney do?
A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints one or more persons, known as the Attorney-in-Fact, to make health care decisions for the Principal during any period of incapacity.

How long is a Health Care Power of Attorney valid?
It is only effective during the lifetime of the Principal or until revoked by the Principal.

What happens if a person becomes incapacitated without having made a Health Care Power of Attorney?
A Guardian may be appointed by the court to make health care decisions for the period of incapacity. An Attorney-of-Fact can act immediately. A Guardian cannot act until appointed by the court.

Can a Health Power of Attorney be changed?
YES! The document can be revoked and a new document prepared.