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Health Care Power of Attorney

Baldwin County Estate Planning Attorney – Health Care Power of Attorney

What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?

With a health care power of attorney, you can appoint a person to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are not able to make them for yourself. In some situations, a health care power of attorney created in advance can serve as a substitute for the more complicated process of appointing a guardian. A health care power of attorney is an essential component of incapacity planning which should be part of every estate plan.  

How does a Health Care Power of Attorney Work?

The person who creates the health care power of attorney is generally referred to as the principal. The person appointed to make decision for the principal is generally referred to as the agent. The health care power of attorney becomes effective when, in the opinion of the attending physician, the principal is no longer able to give direction to health care providers.

The person appointed in the health care power of attorney is authorized to make any health care decision (with a few limited exceptions) that the principal could make if not for the lack of the capacity of the principal to make a decision. This authority may be limited by the grant of authority in the health care power of attorney. For the agent to make decisions regarding the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and artificially provided nutrition and hydration, the medical power of attorney must 1) specifically authorize the agent to do so, 2) the substantive provisions of the health care power of attorney must be in substantial compliance with the Alabama Natural Death Act, 3) the health care power of attorney must be executed and accepted in substantially the same form as set forth in the Alabama Natural Death Act.  The authority to make decisions regarding the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and artificially provided nutrition and hydration is only allowed in cases of terminal illness or injury or permanent unconsciousness

Do I have to Record a Health Care Power of Attorney?

Recording a health care power of attorney is not necessary to make it valid. However, recording a health care power of attorney in the office of the judge of probate is an option mostly intended to preserve the health care power of attorney and make it available for those who need it. After the health care power of attorney is recorded, it’s available for inspection and copying at the request of emergency medical personnel, hospital personnel, treating physicians, members of the immediate family, a person with a power of attorney or other legally authorized person, or a person authorized in writing by the maker of the health care power of attorney. Even after the health care power of attorney is recorded, the person making the power of attorney is still responsible for providing a copy to physicians and health care providers.  In other words, the physician, hospital, or other health care provider has no obligation to search the probate records for a health care power of attorney, but it will be there if they look for it.

The Law Office of Brenton C. McWilliams is an Estate Planning, Elder Law and Probate Law Firm serving clients in Baldwin County including our local cities of Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Foley, Elberta, Summerdale and Robertsdale. For a consultation please call (251) 215-9275 or request a consultation on the consult request page.