Selecting someone to make health care decisions for you when you are unable, requires a great deal of trust and is considered by many to be the most important estate planning tool, according to The Daily News in “Choose Health Care Power of Attorney Carefully.” The Durable Health Care Power of Attorney—HCPOA—is similar to the general POA in that both can be used to provide your representative with either very broad or very limited acting authority. However, they are also very different. The HCPOA can be drafted to retain its effectiveness, while you are alive and after you pass away.
The critical thing about an HCPOA is the ability to tell the person you chose of your wishes about many different types of health and medical decisions. You can tell him or her exactly what medical treatments are acceptable to you or which you do not want to be used. That includes surgical intervention, autopsies, resuscitation, life support, organ donations and even whether to donate your body or specific portions of your body to science, medicine or education.
A less dramatic part of your HCPOA concerns your representative’s right to access and disclose medical records.
The HCPOA is a critical document that may make a life-or-death impact for you. In addition to selecting a person who you trust and count on to act as you wish, even if it is against their values, you’ll want to select an estate planning attorney who can create the document to achieve your health and medical wishes.
You do retain the right to revoke or change your HCPOA at any time. You can do so verbally, by notifying your agent or your healthcare provider. It may be better to do this in writing. You can also draft a new HCPOA, which revokes any previously written documents.
However you chose to revoke the HCPOA, make sure that your representative and estate planning attorney know that you wish to do this. This should be done in writing to avoid any misunderstandings or confusion.
If you use an HCPOA, remember that it supersedes the directions and wishes of anyone except you: that includes your wife, your children, your next of kin and your healthcare provider.
If you chose to have lifesaving care, your agent cannot tell your doctor to withhold care.
You should also tell your spouse, next of kin and any children that you have named someone to the position of health care POA. Make sure to also tell that person, so it is not a surprise to them. They may choose not to take on the responsibility, so be prepared with a contingent person.
Talk with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys to make sure these documents are drafted carefully and correctly.