A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Personal Finance March 22, 2008 Print Friendly and PDF
doctor conferring with older male patient as son listens

A durable power of attorney for health care allows you to choose someone (generally referred to as a health-care or medical "agent," "representative," or "proxy") who will make health-care decisions for you when you can no longer communicate. You may designate your spouse, another family member, a close personal friend, or other trusted person of legal age—preferably, someone who lives near you. Talk to the person you choose to be sure he or she is capable of carrying out your health-care wishes and is willing to do so. Provide him or her with a copy of your living will. It's wise to select at least one other person as an alternate in case your primary health-care agent is unable to function when needed. In some states, your durable power of attorney for health care must be witnessed and notarized in order to be legally binding. If your state does not have an approved format to follow, you'll want to work with an attorney as you prepare this document.

Designated health-care agents have no power to act on your behalf while you can still communicate your own wishes, and their power ends at your death. Durable power of attorney for health care is used only for medical—not financial—decisions.

Lesson Contents

I. Introduction

II. Advance Directives for Health Care

a. Living Will
b. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
c. Obtaining Advance Directive Documents for Your State
d. Storing Your Advance Directives for Health Care
e. Changing or Updating Your Documents

III. Starting an Advance Directive Discussion

V. Learn More


Resources and Tools

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Communicate Your Advance Directives for Health Care belongs to a series called Legally Secure Your Financial Future. The series also includes information to help you organize important household papers and begin preparing your estate plan.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.