Execution of a Medical Power of Attorney is vital to planning for incapacity. A power of attorney is used to designate who will make your medical treatment decisions in the event of your incapacity and inability to communicate with your doctors. This document is only effective if you are unable to make your own decisions.
Generally, if you are married, the doctors and hospital will consult your spouse regarding medical treatment decisions. If you are single, they will likely turn to your next of kin. The Medical Power of Attorney allows you to designate which of your next of kin you want making health care decisions. It also allows you to name a person not related to you to have such authority. In fact, if you DO NOT want a relative to have this power, you MUST have a valid Medial Power of Attorney.
Your agent is obligated to follow your wishes when making decisions on your behalf. Your agent should make decisions about your health care as you would have if you were able to make health care decisions yourself. It is important for you to make it clear to your agent that their decisions should be based on what YOU would want and not necessarily what your agent would want for himself or herself under the same circumstances.
Many individuals believe Medical Powers of Attorney are only for the elderly. It is important to remember that unexpected injury and illness can occur at any age. There are two additional medical based documents that are important for your estate plan. These are a Directive to Physician and a HIPAA Release and Authorization. These documents work hand in hand with each other with the Medical Power of Attorney.