Even those who are currently in good health, may suddenly become too ill to make healthcare decisions for themselves. They may become unconscious after an accident, needing someone to stand in their shoes to make those decisions for them. A medical power of attorney is a crucial part of an estate plan. It enables you to name a trusted person to make healthcare decisions for if you cannot speak for yourself. It is essential for the person you name to have the information necessary to carry out your wishes for your medical care.

What Is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney, is a legal document that enables you to name someone to act as your agent, a person who can make decisions on your behalf. Your agent has a duty to make the decisions that you would have made, if you had been capable of making them. That is why it is important for your agent to know your wishes. In general, Washington State does not allow your healthcare providers to serve as your agent, but you are free to choose any other mentally competent adult. A healthcare power of attorney must be in writing and signed before a notary, or signed before two or more competent witnesses. The witnesses cannot be your home care provider or care providers at an adult family home or long-term care facility in which you reside, and the witnesses must be unrelated to you and your agent by blood, marriage, or state registered domestic partnership. The healthcare power of attorney will only come into effect if you are unable to communicate your wishes.

What Does Your Agent Need to Know?

Once you have decided who will act as your agent, it is very important to have a serious and honest conversation with that person to help them understand your goals and priorities for your health care, as well as the values you want your agent to follow in making decisions on your behalf. It is also important to provide information that is crucial for your agent to know in order to make decisions regarding your care. It is a good idea to note the following in writing and keep it with your healthcare power of attorney document.

Preferred providers. You should provide the name, phone number, and address of the doctor you would like to be your attending physician, as well as other physicians and healthcare providers you would prefer to treat you if necessary. Likewise, if there are any physicians or providers you do not wish to treat you, you can furnish a list of those providers as well.

Medical conditions. You should make sure your agent knows about any medical conditions that may impact your care. For example, if you have a medical condition that may cause or appear similar to psychiatric symptoms, you can instruct your agent to have your physician rule out those medical conditions prior to authorizing psychiatric care or treatment.

Medical history, medications and allergies. If you have had surgeries or other medical procedures, give your agent a list of them and the dates they occurred. You should provide your agent with a list of all the medications you are taking. Further, if you want your agent to refuse to authorize certain medicines, you should specify that wish.  If you have allergies, particularly to medications or foods, provide them to your agent.

Religious beliefs. It is very important to communicate with your agent about your spiritual beliefs and values. These beliefs may affect your choices about the extent or aggressiveness of medical care you would like to receive, whether you would like a chaplain to be part of your medical team, or whether there are any religious customs or rites you would like to observe.

Let Us Help You Prepare for the Future

As experienced estate planning attorneys, we can help you put a comprehensive plan in place to ensure not only that you will receive the medical care you desire, but also that your finances are properly managed and your family members are provided for and protected. Please contact us today to set up a meeting. You may be surprised at the peace of mind you can gain by knowing that you are prepared for whatever the future holds.