In times of unforeseen medical emergencies, the Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) is a vital legal document that empowers individuals (the “principal”) to designate a trusted person (the “agent”) to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. By having an HCPOA in place, individuals can ensure that their wishes are respected, even when they are unable to communicate or make decisions themselves.
Who May Have an HCPOA?
Any individual who has the understanding and capacity to make and communicate health care decisions and is at least 18 years of age may make an HCPOA.
Who May I Appoint to Make Medical Decisions on My Behalf?
The agent nominated to act on the principal’s behalf can be any competent individual who is not engaged in providing health care to the principal for payment and is at least 18 years of age.
What Authority Will My Agent Have?
Only when the principal lacks understanding or capacity to make or communicate health care decisions, and continuing throughout such incapacity, the agent may have full power and authority to make health care decisions to the same extent that the principal could make those decisions for himself or herself if he or she had the capacity to make and communicate health care decisions, including the power to authorize withholding or discontinuing life-prolonging measures. A health care power of attorney may also contain or incorporate by reference any lawful directions relating to the specific wishes of the principal.
What If I Change My Mind About My Named Agent?
The principal may remove and replace an agent during any period in which they have the requisite capacity to make that decision.
Taking the time to create a Health Care Power of Attorney is an essential step in healthcare planning, providing peace of mind for both individuals and their loved ones. It is important to work with an experienced attorney to discuss what provisions might be right for you and to ensure the proper execution of a Health Care Power of Attorney.