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Do you know the importance of your health care power of attorney?

When you’re working on your estate plan, one thing your attorney should discuss with you is your health care power of attorney and who you’d like to have to take on that role if you cannot make your own medical decisions.

Everyone needs a health care power of attorney. This is a person who can step in and help make sure that your wishes are carried out when you can’t make decisions yourself. When you can’t communicate, that person will be the one who speaks for you.

There is no requirement to have a health care power of attorney, but setting one up can help you if an emergency situation arises.

What happens if you don’t have a health care power of attorney in an emergency?

As long as you can state your own wishes, medical providers will do what you want, or, if unclear, what’s in your best interests as their patient. Having a health care power of attorney is more important for situations where you cannot speak up. For example, if you are unconscious following a car crash, your health care power of attorney could come forward and decide which tests or treatment options to pursue.

Should you talk to someone you love about becoming your health care power of attorney?

You can select anyone to be your health care power of attorney, but it’s a good idea to make sure they know about your decision. You should be certain that they are capable of handling the stress in the kind of situation that would require them to make decisions for you and be clear that they’re willing to make the same kinds of decisions that you would. You can give them instructions and walk them through what you’d like them to do in end-of-life circumstances or other emergency situations.

It’s possible to select one or more people to fulfill this role, so that there is always someone available if you need them. It’s smart to look into the legal options to set up a health care proxy as well as to speak with those who may be willing to take on this responsibility before you make your decision.

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