A health care power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes another person (your agent) to make health care decisions for you whenever you are unable to make informed health care decisions for yourself. It also allows your agent to obtain your health information and communicate with your health care provider.
If you do not have a health care power of attorney, and you lose the ability to to make informed health care decisions for yourself, the person making decisions for you may not be the person you would choose for yourself. Different family members may have conflicting opinions on what is in your best interest. Without a health care power of attorney, it may be necessary for the probate court to appoint a guardian to make decisions for you. Establishing a guardianship through the court system is often time consuming, costly, and in some cases can put family members at odds with each other. The better option is to have a health care power in place before it is needed, avoiding the need for a guardianship later. The key is to plan now for the possibility that you may need someone to step in and make health care decisions for you at some point in the future, and sign a health care power of attorney while you are still competent. If you wait until it is needed, in many cases it is too late.
Rob Bolin is an Oxford, Ohio estate planning attorney and Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law by the Ohio State Bar Association. He welcomes inquiries from new clients.
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