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What Is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?

One of the most common misconceptions about estate planning is that it only involves wills and trusts. However, an estate plan can include numerous documents that protect more than just our assets. For instance, many people have a power of attorney for health care as part of their estate plan.

A power of attorney for health care is something that any Wisconsin adult can create, as long as they are of sound mind. As such, it can be important to know what it is and how to create one.

What is the power of attorney for health care?
Power of attorney for health care is a legal document that grants another person the authority to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. The permissions go into effect when two physicians (or one licensed psychologist and one physician) determine that a person is incapacitated. These medical professionals must be properly licensed and they must personally examine the person before finding that he or she has incapacity.

What types of decisions do agents make?
There are various types of decisions that someone with power of attorney for health care may need to make. This person may decide where the principal (or the person who has incapacity) will go for treatment, when to admit or discharged the principal and who can access medical records. An agent will also decide the courses of treatment the principal will receive and when to stop treatment, if necessary.

What makes a power of attorney valid?
To be valid, a power of attorney for health care must be in writing. You must date and sign the document voluntarily in front of at least two witnesses who are at least 18 years old and unrelated to you. The witnesses should be two people who have no personal or financial interest in the decision.

Making these determinations
Considering all that a person with power of attorney may need to do, it is important to think carefully about this assignment. Once you have made the decision, make sure you properly document it with the help of an attorney, as an improperly drafted document can be deemed invalid.