Health Care Power of Attorney: What Are Your Intentions During Incapacity

Doctor Talking to a Patient

While planning for a catastrophic accident is something we may never want to think about, creating a health care power of attorney for someone to act in our best interest in the event that we become incapacitated is an important aspect of estate planning. Even in cases in which we make a full recovery, we still may need someone to take care of our finances or act on our behalf for a period of time while we recover.

In Wisconsin, these legal arrangements are called “durable powers of attorney” and allow someone to name another individual as the “attorney in fact” to make important healthcare decisions when someone faces an end of life scenario. Some of the scenarios where someone may have to exercise their durable power of attorney over another could be cases where someone is on a respirator or has severe brain damage and unlikely to make a recovery.

Wisconsin law 155.01 et seq. Allows individuals to create a durable power of attorney for:

Designation of another for purpose of making informed decisions in the exercise of the right to accept, maintain, discontinue, or refuse any care, treatment, service, or procedure to diagnose, maintain, or treat the physical or mental condition. A feeding tube may be withheld or withdrawn unless it would cause pain. The agent may not consent to withholding or withdrawing of orally ingested nutrition or hydration unless provision is medically contraindicated

The legal requirements for someone to act as an attorney in fact are that the person must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind and body. The agreement must be in writing, voluntarily executed, with a signature and date. The power of attorney may be registered with the probate court in the county where the person lives.

Furthermore, treating physicians must carry out the order in good faith, and in instances in which doctors or hospitals will not comply with directives, the attorney in fact must transfer the incapacitated person to another hospital. Doctors who comply in good faith with directives by the attorney in fact are immune from civil liabilities, as well.

Who you may choose to act as your attorney in fact is entirely up to you but it is strongly suggested that the individual be someone you know and trust. If you are married, this may be your spouse and if you are single, this could be a parent or sibling who will understand and execute your intentions when facing difficult decisions in the event of a catastrophic accident or adverse medical event.

Madison Trust and Estate Lawyers

The estate lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. To request a consultation, reach out to our experienced attorneys online.

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