Everything You Need to (Finally) Create a Healthcare Power of Attorney

Published: December 12, 2022

Everything You Need to (Finally) Create a Healthcare Power of Attorney

Maybe you’ve heard of a healthcare power of attorney, but you’re not quite sure what it does, why you need one, or how to get one. Or maybe you know exactly what it is, and you just haven’t had the time to start the process.

A healthcare power of attorney is a powerful document that’s vital to you and your loved ones.  Imagine you’re seriously injured or sick and can’t make medical decisions, and no one knows your wishes. Or imagine your children having to make tough medical decisions when they’re stressed, sad and overwhelmed.

So, why not start the new year by taking care of one of the most essential yet avoided tasks? Here’s everything you need to know to set up your healthcare power of attorney.

What is healthcare power of attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney (or medical power of attorney) is a legal document that allows you to designate a person to make medical decisions if you cannot make them for yourself.

Why do you need a healthcare power of attorney?

Most people don’t want to talk or think about becoming seriously ill or incapacitated. However, life is unpredictable, and as we get older it’s more likely that a sudden or severe health injury or illness may occur. 

You want to ensure you have someone you trust who can make decisions about your healthcare on your behalf. More importantly, you want to make sure someone knows what you want if you cannot speak for yourself.

How do you choose a healthcare agent?

Your healthcare agent can literally make life-or-death decisions for you. They are responsible for ensuring your wishes are met if you’re incapacitated. Choose a friend or family member that you trust and who is reliable. Have an in-depth discussion with them to ensure they understand your wishes regarding your healthcare. 

Be sure family members and your physician know who your healthcare agent is.

Chose a healthcare agent who:

  • Is at least 18 years old
  • Is mentally competent and able to make decisions in stressful situations
  • Can comprehend medical terms and instructions from your physicians
  • Can be firm and decisive
  • Is aware of your religious and moral values

What is your healthcare agent responsible for?

Before you choose a healthcare agent, let’s make sure you have a clear understanding of what they can do:

  • Decide what medical care you receive, including medical treatments, surgical procedures, and feeding tubes
  • Select home health care or senior living communities
  • Make decisions about organ donation
  • Choose doctors and other medical providers
  • Choose the facilities where you receive medical care
  • Whether to continue or end life support

How to set up your healthcare power of attorney

Once you’ve chosen your healthcare agent, setting up your healthcare power of attorney is relatively simple. You can either set up a healthcare power of attorney or hire an attorney to help you complete the document. Most states offer free healthcare power of attorney forms online if you choose to do it yourself.  You can also ask your physician for a form.

Here are the steps to complete your healthcare power of attorney:

  1. Define which healthcare decisions you want your healthcare agent to be able to make (end-of-life decisions, medical treatments, organ donation procedures).
  2. Complete your healthcare power of attorney.
  3. Once your form is completed, it needs to be signed by yourself and the agent according to your state signing laws.

Wrap-up and next steps

You now have everything you need to finally check your healthcare power of attorney off your to-do list. Start by identifying possible healthcare agents, and you’re on your way!