Life is, for better and for worse, full of the unexpected. An accident or life-altering event could render you unable to express or make medical decisions for yourself. With a well-designed health care power of attorney, you will be able to obtain peace of mind and be confident that your well-being is handled according to your wishes, even if you cannot speak for yourself. At Stevenson Smith Hood Knudson, P.C., we can help you to create a health care power of attorney that will meet all of your needs. Here are a few of the reasons why you need to plan for your health care power of attorney.
You can be as cautious as possible, but you still cannot plan for everything that may impact your life or your ability to make your own medical decisions. Car accidents, strokes, or all kinds of unexpected situations may render you unable to speak for yourself or otherwise express what you want. This can leave your family and friends in the difficult situation of deciding what kind of treatment and care you want to receive. When you create a health care power of attorney, you will be able to ensure that your wishes are carried out in these situations and provide guidance and reassurance to your loved ones.
What Happens without a Health Care Power of Attorney?
Without a health care power of attorney, your next of kin is the default decision maker when you aren’t in a condition to speak or decide for yourself. While this usually means a spouse or children, there are many ways this can become complicated. Family members may not all agree on the right course of action. In a blended family, your spouse and your children may disagree who should make your healthcare decisions. It may be difficult to track down your next of kin. A spouse suffering from dementia may be unable to make decisions on your behalf. The thought of being in such a condition is unsettling, and most people do not discuss their wishes with friends or family. This leaves the next of kin without a hint of what treatment you do or don’t want. Making such decisions may create anxiety and guilt for your next of kin. With a health care power of attorney, you will be better positioned to have the right decision maker and the right decisions made for your own situation.
What a Health Care Power of Attorney Does
A health care power of attorney is a legal tool that enables you to designate an agent to make medical decisions when you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. When you create a health care power of attorney, you designate a person who you trust to make sure that your wishes are honored with regard to medical care and related issues. Your agent may decide whether to continue, refuse, or withdraw medical treatment. Your agent can also ensure your wishes are honored regarding admission to a hospital or nursing facility, medical research, life-prolonging care, and organ donation. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to consider each of these serious decisions and more, and to provide guidance to your agent on how you want to be treated.
If you have a long time partner that you haven’t legally married, they may lack legal rights in these situations. Without a health care power of attorney naming them as your agent, they may be unable to make decisions for you. Instead, your legally-determined next of kin–likely your parent, siblings, or other relatives–would have authority over your medical care. A health care power of attorney can help to prevent this from becoming a problem.
State Specific Considerations
The laws surrounding a health care power of attorney will change based on the state that you live in. It is important to work with an experienced attorney in your state to help you make the best decisions for your own specific situation.
Choosing an Agent
It is beneficial to put careful consideration into who you intend to designate as your agent. The right agent will be someone that you trust to carry out your wishes. It is also often a good idea to name additional, backup agents when you create your health care power of attorney. The distance your agent lives from you is something you may want to consider, though technology allows for instantaneous communication across the globe if necessary.Your estate plan protects your assets and ensures that your estate will go to the people or causes you have carefully selected. A health care power of attorney is a way to respect the wishes and protect the dignity of yourself. When you create a health care power of attorney, you will obtain protection when an unexpected occurrence renders you unable to make these vital decisions for yourself. Our team at Stevenson Smith Hood Knudson, P.C. is passionate about providing you with superior guidance to plan for your future. To learn more about the importance of a health care power of attorney, contact us at Stevenson Smith Hood Knudson, P.C. today!