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Wills and estate planning

Medical power of attorney

There might come a time when you need someone to carry out your healthcare wishes on your behalf. Having your preferences and plans documented can alleviate some of the burden.

If there's one golden rule in life, it's to always expect the unexpected. While you can't predict what can and will happen, you can take steps to help prepare yourself.

A lot of people plan by setting up their estate, buying life insurance and double-checking their will, but you can take things a step further by setting up a medical power of attorney. Here's what you need to know.

What is a medical power of attorney?

One way many people plan for the unknown is by creating a power of attorney (POA), a document that allows someone of your choosing to legally act on your behalf.

A medical power of attorney (MPOA) authorizes your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf, including end-of-life decisions. For those who are young, this could include decisions like whether to resuscitate or end life support.

Why do I need a medical power of attorney?

If you think you're covered with a general power of attorney (GPOA), know that if a situation comes up where you are incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions, that agreement ends. It means the person who you had selected as your POA is no longer authorized to make those decisions for you, the agreement is over. 

With a MPOA in place, you'll still have someone you know and trust ready to make decisions for you and follow through on your medical wishes. 

If you don't have a MPOA in place, depending on the rules in your state, a court could appoint someone to make decisions about your medical care. This person could be a family member, but it's also possible they could be an outside party. The process of appointing someone takes time, which could impact your medical care. 

How do I get a medical power of attorney?

Getting an agreement in place for an MPOA is relatively easy. Think about who you'd like to have this responsibility; choose someone you trust — ideally, they should know you well, be responsible and levelheaded. Then you can have the paperwork drawn up by a legal professional or do it yourself. Many states have specific rules and regulations around an MPOA form and the process of naming one. Once it's set, keep your paperwork in a safe place, and consider sharing a copy with your healthcare provider. 

How to have this conversation with a loved one

As people age, end-of-life conversations become more critical. This is especially true if you have elderly parents you care for, in addition to your children. While it might be hard having this discussion with a loved one, it's essential. What you want to convey during the conversation is how important it is to you that they have a chance to tell you about their medical wishes. 

Aim for honest communication. There are big topics to discuss, and you can also discuss final wishes, and last will and testament. It can be a difficult conversation, so empathy and understanding are key. 

No one likes to think about a time when they can't make decisions for themselves. However, making these choices early can both ensure your medical wishes are followed and help make an emotional time a little less stressful. 



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