Estate planning means taking an active role in your family’s future. By getting your affairs in order, and organizing and determining the disbursement of your assets, you’re looking out for your loved ones once you’ve passed on. Your own future, however, is also paramount when it comes to estate planning.
Creating a health care power of attorney can be an important facet of your estate plans. By issuing this authorization, you’re not only aiding your family, but you’re also taking care of your own interests. If you’re currently taking steps to plan for your future, understanding what a health care power of attorney entails can be beneficial.
A voice on your behalf
In the event that your health prohibits you from speaking, or if you’re unable to make your own decisions, a health care power of attorney can be your voice. This written document will authorize someone of your choosing to act as an agent and make your health care decisions for you. This agent, or proxy, assumes a similar role to that of a surrogate in a living will, but in this instance they’ll have authority in all medical decisions—not just those related to permanent unconsciousness or terminal conditions.
Your agent will only have as much autonomy as you elect to give it to them. That is, your health care power of attorney document can include guidelines that you’d like your agent to follow. This document is considered a durable power of attorney, so you’ll want to make sure it’s drawn up well and tailored to your wishes.
A companion to your advance health care declaration
You may have already prepared an advance health care declaration for decisions regarding life-sustaining procedures. While this document is important, it has limitations and it’s prudent to pair it with a health care power of attorney. By having both documents in place, you can better carry out your wishes should your health someday prompt them.