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What is a Health Care Power of Attorney and do I Need One?

It is important to prepare for situations that may arise as you get older. For example, it is essential to have a estate plan in place to ensure that your loved ones are cared for in the manner you desire after your death. One part of a comprehensive estate plan is a health care power of attorney. A healthcare power of attorney, also known as a healthcare directive or advance directive, is a legal document that provides details about the medical care that you want in the event that you are unable to provide the information.

What is Incapacitation?

Part of an estate plan is to provide for the distribution of your assets and property upon your death. Another important part of the plan should involve the consideration of what to do should you become incapacitated. Incapacitation means that you are unable to make financial and medical decisions for yourself due to a severe medical condition. The incapacitation may be temporary or permanent.

Wisconsin Statute 54.98 sets forth how to determine incapacity. Generally, you could become incapacitated due to a chronic medical condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease or because of an acute illness such as a heart attack. The one thing in common is that when you are incapacitated you are not able to make decisions or to let others know of your wishes. Therefore, it is imperative that you plan ahead for this potential situation.

What to Include in a Healthcare Directive

A healthcare power of attorney allows another person to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated. You must name a person as your agent and you should discuss the details of the directive with the person ahead of time. This person is also known as a health care surrogate. Your agent is legally allowed to act on your behalf to make any decisions that are related to your health care.

The agent will provide instructions to doctors and other health care professionals regarding your care. You should specify the circumstances under which you prefer certain care. For instance, you may want to have a “do not resuscitate” order under certain medical conditions. There are many medical situations that require decisions that you may be unable to make at the time due to incapacitation. Your agent will follow the instructions in your healthcare directive and provide those instructions to the medical team responsible for your care.

The healthcare directive is a good option because it does not leave any decisions to the sole discretion of your family. They will not need to worry about what your wishes are or stress about whether they are making the right decisions about your care. At the same time, you will not be left in a medical condition that you do not want. For example, you may not wish to be kept alive on life support.

There are many considerations that you must think about when creating a healthcare power of attorney. For this reason, it is best to have the document drafted by a qualified estate planning attorney. Contact our experienced legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. for all your estate planning needs.

Published December 22, 2018
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