Like most people, you want to mitigate risks and plan for the future as you prepare to enter retirement. You want to know that your loved ones are in good hands should you suffer a debilitating illness or have some significant physical life event. If you are incapacitated, who decides if you’re going to have surgery?
Your medical power of attorney is your legal right to appoint someone to act in your place and as your agent if you cannot make your own medical decisions.
If you have a legally-binding medical power of attorney, then you already know there is no need for any issues when it comes to end-of-life decisions or living wishes. We know it can be hard to think about such sensitive topics as end-of-life care, but planning is important. If you don’t have one, it is high time you got one. Let’s talk about what a medical power of attorney does, how it works, and why it could help set your mind at ease.
What is a Medical Power of Attorney?
A legally-binding power of attorney is a legal document that lets you appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you can’t do so. The person who has been given power over your affairs has the right to make all decisions about your health care, including filing claims for Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.
They can also cancel any insurance policies that cover you and hire healthcare professionals as needed.
A medical power of attorney also allows appointed parties access to confidential information regarding your health status and medical history to make informed decisions about necessary treatments or procedures.
While this may sound like something only older adults need, it’s important for anyone with serious health issues or chronic conditions to appoint a trusted person to take care of them when they don’t feel able to do so themselves.
Who Should You Name as Your Legally-binding Power of Attorney?
The person you name as your legally-binding power of attorney should be someone who understands your values and wishes. You should discuss your wishes, including what treatments you would or would not want in certain situations. This includes discussions about life-prolonging measures, such as CPR, ventilators, and feeding tubes.
The individual making these healthcare decisions must be willing and able to make those decisions based upon what they believe would be in your best interest if you were capable of doing so yourself. Your agreement will be legally binding, even if you don’t know everything about all possible situations that might arise.
It’s also important to discuss these issues with family members and doctors close to you before naming an agent under a medical power. This will help everyone understand their role appropriately, and there aren’t any misunderstandings later on down the road. Additionally, your doctor may have special insight into what type of care might be appropriate if faced with an emergency requiring quick action.
What Should Your Legally-Binding Power of Attorney Cover?
With a legally-binding power of attorney, you can appoint someone to make decisions for you if you cannot do so yourself. This is a vital document, but as with any legal document, it’s also very easy to misunderstand and misuse.
It is common for people to think about legally-binding power of attorney only when nearing death or in an incapacitated state, but this is not how it works. In fact, many people use this document more frequently than they realize, even if it’s just in their minds—because there are times when we all need someone else to make decisions on our behalf.
Why is It Important to Get a Medical Power of an Attorney?
A legally-binding power of attorney is one of the most important planning documents that you can have in place. Here are some reasons why it’s important to get a legally-binding Medical power of attorney:
To prepare for a major medical procedure
You may need surgery or other treatment that requires someone else to sign off on the consent form. If you don’t have an agent named, or if no one knows where the document is kept, there could be delays while they try to locate the paperwork. If this happens, it could prevent your doctors from helping you out as quickly as possible, especially in an emergency.
Creates peace of mind
A legally-binding Medical power of attorney allows you to give someone you trust—your agent—the right to make medical decisions on your behalf. It lets you have peace of mind knowing that if you cannot make decisions for yourself, someone you trust can step in and help. You can rest easy knowing that if something happens and you cannot make important decisions about your health care, your agent will be able to do so for you. It’s a great way to ensure that your family doesn’t have any additional stress while going through this difficult time.
It protects your privacy by preventing others from obtaining information about your health history without your permission. This can prevent them from prying into sensitive issues such as psychiatric treatment or drug use that may be sensitive for personal reasons or because it could impact their ability to obtain insurance coverage or employment in the future.
It guarantees that your preferences will be implemented.
A medical power of attorney ensures that your loved ones know how you want to be treated and what you want for yourself. It can also help your family avoid costly legal fees if they must go to court to fight for your wishes.
When Can You Revoke a Legally-Binding Power of Attorney?
If you change your mind, you can withdraw the legally-binding power of attorney anytime. To do so, you will need to write a letter to the person you named as your medical power of attorney informing them that you no longer want them to act on your behalf. You can also revoke an existing medical power of advocate by signing a new one.
Talk to Your Doctor about Your Goals and Wishes for Care
To prevent your loved one from suffering, it’s important that you have a plan in place before an emergency happens. So talk with your doctor about your goals and wishes for care. Make sure they know what you want to be done if you can’t make decisions on your behalf. Also, make sure they know who has been given the power to make decisions on your behalf if something happens to you.
Tell them if there are any specific instructions or medications they should give while under treatment. This will help save time and improve efficiency during any medical emergency.
A Legally-Binding Power of Attorney Lets You Appoint Someone to Make Medical Decisions for You If You Cannot Do So Yourself
You can appoint anyone you trust to be your health care agent. This person will have the legal authority to make decisions about your medical care if you are unable or unwilling to do so.
If you have a family member or friend who resides nearby, they may be able to help with most situations. However, sometimes, it might be necessary for someone else to step in and make these important life-altering decisions on behalf of the patient, such as when no family is living nearby.
Some people choose a doctor because they know that this person will always be available when needed. Others may choose an attorney specializing in estate planning since they understand the laws surrounding medical powers of an attorney better than most people.
A Medical Power of Attorney is Just the Beginning!
A Medical Power of Attorney is just a component of a proper, well developed and defined estate plan. Your estate plan would include not only medical needs, but also long-term care planning and asset protection. Many think that a will is enough to ensure that their wishes are fulfilled, and unfortunately, that’s just not the case!
Mindy Felinton has over 35 years of experience assisting clients in the Rockville, Maryland, and South Florida areas to draft a Medical Power of Attorney and estate plans. She focuses on ensuring that your plan is customized to you and your family’s needs. To get started, give the firm a call to learn more and find out how Mindy Felinton can bring you peace of mind!