You probably don’t want to think about what might happen if an illness or injury left you unable to communicate. Unfortunately, accidents can happen at any time, and your loved ones may be powerless to help with your medical care if you don’t have the right legal documents in place.
A health care power of attorney can allow a family member or friend to authorize treatment and make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Having a lawyer draw up this document will protect your future and enable loved ones to ensure you receive the care you need.
Choosing a Health Care Agent
Maryland laws often refer to a health care power of attorney as a health care agent. They could also be known as a medical agent or medical power of attorney.
The agent does not need to be a lawyer. The power they receive is called a power of attorney because it gives them the right to speak on your behalf the way a lawyer speaks for a client in court.
You want to choose someone you trust to understand and follow your wishes for treatment. If you are in a committed romantic relationship with a partner but not married, you might want to name your partner as your agent. They will have no power in the decision making process unless you grant them specific authorization.
You could choose a close family member or friend. Before officially designating your health care agent, you should discuss the responsibility with them to make sure they are prepared to undertake the task.
When a Health Care Power of Attorney Takes Effect
Unlike a financial power of attorney, which usually takes effect immediately after it is signed, a health care power of attorney usually does not become effective until certain events occur. In the document itself, you can specify when you want the power to take effect. It is common to state that the agent is only authorized to make health care decisions if a doctor certifies in writing that you are incapacitated or not capable of making decisions about your own care.
Health Care Documents as Part of Your Estate Plan
Although estate planning is traditionally thought of as making plans to distribute property when someone passes away, a comprehensive estate plan covers much more. Your estate planning documents can protect your rights during your lifetime. A health care power of attorney allows you to name an agent to direct medical providers about your treatment. It is a type of advance directive.
Another advance directive that works well in conjunction with the medical power of attorney is a living will, also known as health care instructions. In this document, you specify the type of treatment you would want to receive or have withheld in different situations. This can help your agent make decisions in difficult situations.
A final critical component to protect health care interests is a HIPAA authorization document. Without proper authorization, your health care agent or other loved ones may not be allowed to discuss medical needs or insurance issues in certain situations.
Protect Yourself with a Health Care Power of Attorney
At the Law Office of Ralph W. Powers, Jr., P.C., we understand that preparing for what could happen in the future is difficult when you are caught up in a midst of a busy life. But taking a few minutes to establish critical documents now could protect your rights in the future and reduce the burden on loved ones. Contact us today to get started with a health care power of attorney or other critical estate planning documents.