In your estate plan, you have many legal documents that will help protect you and the people you love in the future. Good estate planning minimizes taxes, passes on assets to heirs and even helps you qualify for Medicaid as a part of your long-term care planning.
While much of estate planning does focus on what happens after you die, it’s important to include documents that protect you during your life. One of those documents is a health care power of attorney.
Understanding a health care power of attorney
Your health care power of attorney is a legal document that helps protect you if you fall ill or are injured but cannot make decisions about your own medical care. Health care power of attorney documents allow someone you know and trust to take over your care so that they will make decisions when you cannot. With this document, they have the legal authority to know about your medical situation and to make decisions on your behalf.
Who should you choose for your health care power of attorney?
The legal document, the health care power of attorney (HCPA), assigns one person as your agent. Make sure that the person you choose is someone who you would trust with making life-and-death decisions about your health.
There is one main rule for choosing your HCPA, which is that you need to select someone who is at least 18. You should also consider selecting someone who:
- You trust to agree with your wishes and follow them during an emergency
- Lives nearby or is able to come to you in an emergency
- Is able to understand medical terminology or the treatment options suggested by your medical providers
- Is in agreement with taking on the role
It’s not a good idea to select someone who is uncomfortable with taking on the role or who has stated that they don’t agree with your preferences. Instead, opt for someone you trust to do what you’d do if you had the opportunity to voice your opinion.
Adding a HCPA to your estate plan is important. Consider doing that as a way of updating and reviewing your estate plan if you haven’t already.