If you’ve done any amount of planning for your estate, you may have documents like a will, a trust, a financial power of attorney and even a living will. There’s one other document, though, that could be a critical piece of the estate-planning puzzle.
It’s a medical power of attorney, which is a legal document granting medical decision-making authority to your trusted agent. A medical power of attorney differs from a living will in that the medical power of attorney gives your agent the ability to make all of your health care decisions. A living will provides guidance only with regard to lifesaving measures in specific situations.
Why Do You Need a Medical Power of Attorney?
A medical power of attorney helps you and your loved ones manage a real and dangerous risk—incapacitation. That’s the term used to describe a situation in which you are physically unable to make decisions for yourself.
How could incapacitation occur?
There are a variety of ways. You may suffer from Alzheimer’s or some other cognitive disorder that limits your ability to think through problems and make decisions. You could have a stroke that restricts your ability to communicate. There are any number of medical issues that could leave you in an unconscious or semiconscious state.
In all of these situations, doctors may have multiple routes they can take with regard to treatment. Without your direction, doctors may simply make the decisions they think are best. Or they may take direction from the first family member who arrives at the hospital. It’s also possible your family may disagree on treatment or doctors simply ignore your family’s requests and instructions.
A medical power of attorney eliminates all of those risks. It establishes one person as your decision maker. That decision maker can solicit input from your other loved ones, or they can simply make all the decisions on their own. Doctors are legally obligated to follow your power of attorney’s instructions as if they were your own instructions.
When you have a medical power of attorney, there is one clear voice and one outlet for communication with medical staff. The document can help eliminate confusion and disagreement, and it can help ensure that your wishes are heard and implemented.
Who Should You Name as Your Medical Power of Attorney?
Your medical power of attorney should be someone you trust. After all, they may literally have your life in their hands. Their decisions could impact your treatment, your recovery and the medical bills you may face.
Many people choose a child to be their power of attorney. That makes sense because your children may live nearby, will almost certainly be an ongoing part of your life and will have a vested interest in your care and treatment.
Although technically you can choose multiple children to act as your power of attorney, it might not be a good idea to do so. After all, it’s possible they could disagree about how to move forward. If they disagree, the medical staff won’t get clear instructions, which would undermine the entire point of having the document.
How, then, do you choose the right person? Here are a few qualities to look for in your medical power of attorney:
You may also want to name the same person as both your financial and medical power of attorney. That way, he or she will have full knowledge of your medical and financial needs. That may help your agent make more informed decisions on your behalf.
Not sure who to name as your medical power of attorney? Unsure of how to plan for incapacitation and other retirement risks? Let’s talk about it. Contact us at Carstens Financial Group to schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you plan your retirement.
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