Posted by Elliot Kravitz, ATP

What You Need to Know about Setting Up Medical Power of Attorney

What You Need to Know about Setting Up Medical Power of Attorney

Your estate planning is not completed without the medical power of an attorney. Also called the durable power of attorney, it is a legal document that authorizes someone to take some critical medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. 

This power involves doing what the person believes is best for you, like the choice of a doctor, care facility. The person called agent will have a copy of the medical power of attorney as well as your doctors.

Understanding Medical Power of Attorney

Making a decision about your medical treatment will not be an issue when you are in your senses. There are times, however, when you might not be well equipped to make such delicate decisions. This might be due to accidents, going to a coma, being unconscious, or illness that affects your capacity to make rational decisions like dementia.

With the medical power of attorney, a friend or loved one that you authorize makes such a decision for you. The decisions involve everything related to your health. It can even authorize the person to pull the plug in severe cases. 

Medical Power of Attorney and Living Wills: How They Differ

This is different from a living will. A living will is your document that instructs your doctors what to do should you be rendered incapacitated. Some actions possible under a living will are:

    •    Bringing on of life support

    •    Using tube feeding

    •    Organ donation 

    •    Attempt to resuscitate.

The main difference between the medical power of an attorney and a living will is that you do not make the decisions in the former. Someone does that for you. If there is any case that warrants deciding your health, your agent will interact with your doctors to make the decision. 

Choosing Your Agent

On setting up the medical power of attorney, you need someone to act as your agent. This can be anyone, a related family or friend. You should trust your choice and be comfortable discussing your health issues with the person. The person should respect your wishes and be able to make sound decisions for you. Here are some guidelines in choosing an agent:

    •    Choosing a healthcare provider is a bad idea, even if they take care of you or have a medical facility.

    •    Do not choose anyone related (spouse or children) to the owner of a health care provider or nursing home. 

    •    Avoid choosing anyone that can evaluate you medically, a doctor, or a specialist, for instance.

    •    Avoid choosing the person who is your court-approved guardian

    •    Avoid choosing someone that a healthcare agent for plenty of people, ten or more.  

In some states, the agent is called "healthcare proxy." For different states, the requirements might vary. Hence, be aware of this.

Any Document to Support Medical Power of Attorney

There are documents online that you can use as a template to draft the medical power of an attorney. On getting a suitable agent, try and make it official.

There are provisions for two backup agents. This is needed in case your agent cannot make decisions for you. Any of these backups will take their place. Be sure, however, to scrutinize them well as this is a critical decision. 

In addition, there is a place for two witnesses, asides the agent or the backups. You need their signature on the documents. You are better off using a notary figure. You can get notary public near you, use the services of some banks and friends that have the power. An excellent place to get this is from the American Association of Notaries. 

Estate Planning Tips

While it is essential to make plans for medical issues, you also need to care for your loved ones with a reliable estate plan. Consider using last will. This is in addition to a living trust which authorizes your asset to go to your beneficiaries, excluding the probates.


Many people do not like facing the reality that there might be a situation where they won't be able to make decisions for themselves. With the medical power of attorney, you can rest assured that your agent is after your best interest. This is better and comes with flexibility compared to a living will

Elliot Kravitz, ATP
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