A medical power of attorney (or health care power of attorney) is an estate planning tool in which you can give another person the authority to make decisions concerning your health care if you become too ill or cannot otherwise make those decisions for yourself. The person who signs the medical power of attorney and designates someone to make medical decisions on her behalf is called the principal. The person the principal designates is called the agent. To make a medical power of attorney you must be 18 years old and of sound mind. A medical power of attorney is often used in conjunction with a living will as part of a comprehensive estate plan.

The principal can narrow or widen the scope of the agent’s authority, but typically an agent is given the authority: (1) to consent to or refuse medical case, (2) to authorize doctors to provide care and obligate the person’s resources for the care received; (3) to approve or deny admittance into institutions, nursing homes, or other facilities, and (4) to have access to the principal’s medical records and to use them in determining treatment. Again, in the medical power of attorney document itself, the principal can exclude specific decisions she does not want the agent to be able to make. The document will also address what specific events, if they occur, will act as triggers to activate the document and agent’s power therein.

When a person becomes incapacitated and unable to communicate, a medical power of attorney can help avoid all kinds of disputes that arise when others are left to speculate about what you would have desired regarding health care decisions. Decisions will be left to doctors, nurses, and family members, who will sometimes disagree about what they think you would want. From a legal standpoint, a petition will need to be filed in court to have a guardian appointed, a process which can be expensive. A medical power of attorney can be of invaluable benefit to you and your family. For more information on medical powers of attorney, see A.R.S. § 36-3221.

The estate planning attorneys at Lancer Law Firm, can help draft a medical power of attorney as part of a comprehensive estate plan, or advise as part of a review of an existing medical power of attorney. If there is a dispute concerning a medical power of attorney, our experienced litigators can help facilitate a favorable resolution. Call today for a consultation.