No one wants to think about their own death or dying, but it's a reality. An accident can happen any day. You could be diagnosed with a terminal illness. If you do not have a plan established on end-of-life care or medical treatment preferences for when you are incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself, decisions will have to be made by family members. That can be a source of in-fighting and guilt. You don't want that.
At Law Office of Cery R. Kennedy, we go over these sensitive matters with you and help you devise a healthcare directive that mirrors your values and beliefs.
In the meantime, below is a guide to Medical Power of Attorneys that address common issues and questions that many of my clients have before coming to see me.
What a Medical Power of Attorney Do?
A Medical Power of Attorney, also known as an advance directive, is a set of medical instructions for what to do when someone is unable to make important medical decisions on their own. Each state has its own respective forms related to healthcare directives, though many common components are present throughout each state.
The underlying function of an Medical Power of Attorney is to make a patient's healthcare wishes known before the medical issues arise. Some examples of Medical Power of Attorneys include:
- Living wills
- Do-not-resuscitate orders
- Do-not-intubate instructions
- Organ donor registration
- Designation of a healthcare proxy, or someone else to make medical decisions on the patient's behalf
- Designation of a medical power of attorney
Medical Power of Attorney do a lot for such a small part of an estate plan–they save your family the emotional pain of making healthcare decisions for you when you no longer can, and they secure your medical treatment preferences so that care you do not want is not provided while care you want is provided.
Creating a Medical Power of Attorney
Different states have very different rules regarding how Medical Power of Attorney are created and what goes in them. Some states require Medical Power of Attorney to be fairly particular and specific while others allow them to be quite vague and wide-reaching––though regardless of where you are, the more specific you are, the less confusion there will be. You can talk to your doctor about what you might want to go into the healthcare directive, and you can speak to an attorney to make sure you complete the right forms.
In any event, upon creating a Medical Power of Attorney, you want to :
- Keep the originals in a safe, accessible place.
- Provide a copy to your doctor, health care agent, attorney, and/or loved ones.
- Be sure to log who has a copy of the directive so in case one is lost, you have a backup.
- Talk to family members about the decisions you made in the Medical Power of Attorney. It's good to establish boundaries and an understanding of your preferences.
- Keep with you (in your purse or wallet) and a condensed version of the Medical Power of Attorney with a note where a copy may be found––this is important for unexpected emergencies.
Changing Your Medical Power of Attorney
Every few years, you should review your Medical Power of Attorney and make changes accordingly. This is true for all your estate plan documents. There are two events that particularly prompt a need for an update:
- A new diagnosis, a terminal illness or disease that will alter your way of life; and
- Marriage or divorce, i.e., you may want to change who you appoint as your healthcare proxy or agent.
The Benefits of Having a Medical Power of Attorney
Creating a Medical Power of Attorney is not something that people like to think about––most people do not want to plan for serious medical problems. However, even young and healthy people stand to benefit from having a Medical Power of Attorney in place.
Like an insurance policy, a Medical Power of Attorney helps them in a time of need, foreseeable or not. It also drastically reduces confusion at a moment when quick decisions need to be made. It can also remove the uncertainty and guilt that other people can feel when they have to make important decisions on someone else's behalf.
Planning for your future health care is an important part of your estate plan. It is not something to be avoided. Peace comes with being prepared.
At Law Office of Cery R. Kennedy, I will walk you through the steps of a Medical Power of Attorney and all other components of an estate plan that suit your needs and wants.