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What Is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney (POA) is a legal document you create while you’re making your estate plan. This document gives someone the authority to make decisions regarding your healthcare when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself. The person you appoint as your medical POA could instruct your medical team about treatment you don’t want, medications you prefer, and end-of-life care.

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A medical POA should be someone you trust completely and who you know will fulfill their obligations and carry out your wishes. Even if they disagree with your decisions, they should be willing to carry out the plans you choose if you become incapacitated and can no longer speak for yourself. When you can’t discuss your medical needs and wants, they are your voice.

Many people choose to create a durable medical power of attorney. A durable POA allows your agent to act on your behalf if something happens to you, preventing you from making your own decisions. Some courts assume a medical POA is durable, but you should explicitly state that in the legal document.

Elements of a Medical Power of Attorney

Medical POAs can also be referred to as:

  • Advance directive
  • Medical power of attorney directive
  • Advance healthcare directive
  • Power of attorney for healthcare

A medical POA focuses on medical decisions. You should write one according to state law. If you make an error or don’t include the necessary signatures, someone could challenge its validity in court.

Most people think they don’t need a medical POA unless they develop a terminal illness or physically disabling condition. However, this directive can be useful in many situations. For example, if you’re in a car accident and end up in a coma, you can’t communicate your wishes to your doctors. Your medical POA can step in and direct your healthcare team.

medical power of attorneyA person who’s been given your medical power of attorney can make decisions regarding:

  • End-of-life care
  • Blood transfusions
  • Do not resuscitate (DNR) order
  • Medical supplies and devices
  • Medical facilities and providers
  • Organ and tissue donation
  • Home health care
  • Surgical procedures
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Medications
  • Long-term care facilities

Your medical POA can also access your medical records if necessary. Sometimes, reviewing this information can help make informed decisions about your care.

When Your Medical Power of Attorney Takes Effect

A medical POA becomes effective when you become incapacitated. You can also include instructions in your estate plan regarding specific events that authorize your POA to take over your healthcare needs. Examples include:

  • An accident puts you in a coma or unconscious state
  • You are under general anesthesia
  • A doctor diagnoses you with dementia or another disease that interferes with your ability to make good decisions
  • A medical condition, such as a stroke, causes communication issues
  • You have a lapse in mental health, resulting in incompetence

Your medical power of attorney can take effect whenever you choose. However, it typically becomes effective upon incapacitation. A doctor must confirm your condition in a written letter or in your medical records.

Choosing Your Medical POA

When creating an estate plan, you should carefully choose a medical power of attorney. The person you appoint must be a competent adult at least 18 years old. Minors can’t act as anyone’s POA.

You should also consider these characteristics when deciding whom you want to designate:

  • Remains calm in a tense situation
  • Communicates with family members regularly
  • Makes quick decisions regarding treatment and other necessary choices
  • Asks questions if confused about treatment options
  • Feels comfortable making vital decisions on the spot
  • Knows how to take control and instruct healthcare professionals confidently
  • Follows through with your directives regardless of personal opinions

Whoever you choose, it should be someone you know will keep your best interests in mind and follow all instructions you provide. If you can’t trust the person you pick, they shouldn’t be your medical POA.

How to Create a Medical Power of Attorney

Creating a valid and enforceable medical POA requires following these steps:

  • Determine whether you need a medical POA – If you want control over your healthcare decisions, you should designate a medical power of attorney. Without one, your doctors can make the decisions they believe are best while caring for you. That could result in extraordinary measures to keep you alive when that’s something you don’t want.
  • Pick a dependable agent – You should only choose a medical POA you know you can rely on to make the decisions you want to be made. An emotional or irrational family member might choose medical options that aren’t in line with your wishes.
  • Complete the paperwork – You have to fill out several different forms to establish a medical power of attorney. It’s only valid if you sign it in front of a notary public or two witnesses.

Contact Us

Staubus and Randall has a team of estate planning lawyers with over 100 years of combined legal experience. We assist Dallas clients with cases involving wills, trust, powers of attorney, and additional elements of estate plans. You can count on us to meet your needs and protect your future.

If you want to create a medical power of attorney for your estate plan, do not hesitate to contact Staubus and Randall. One of our Dallas estate planning lawyers can meet you for a free consultation to discuss what we can do for you. Call now at 214-691-3411.

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Frequent Asked Questions

Estate planning is the arrangement of transferring a person’s assets and property after their death. The estate plan you create may consist of cars, homes, life insurance, assets, real estate, jewelry, and other types of personal property. When you create an estate plan, you must sign it in front of a notary public.

Even if you don’t have many assets, it’s still a good idea to create an estate plan, so that loved ones won’t argue over who gets what when you pass away. Your estate plan will ensure everything you own goes to specified parties and doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Typically, those with extensive or complex assets will hire an estate planning lawyer to help draft their will. Many use a will to divide personal property, such as a home, among their family members. When you’re preparing your will, you need to make sure you meet specific legal requirements. Having a witness present when you’re signing the documents is crucial.

Of course, it’s possible to draft a will on your own, especially if you don’t have significant assets to leave behind. However, hiring an estate planning lawyer can ensure that your documents comply with current law, and that everything gets divided among your family the way you want, so there’s no confusion.

A power of attorney is a legal document giving power to one person (an agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. When you create a power of attorney, you can designate a specific person and decide how much authority they will have.

An attorney-in-fact would maintain records of all decisions made on your behalf. Some decisions could include recommending a guardian for dependents or minor children and financial decisions. They could also make decisions about healthcare.

If you allow your power of attorney the authority to stop, give, or withhold medical treatment, you can leave instructions on which services you want and don’t want, when to stop life-saving measures, and when to cease specific treatments.

It’s devastating to lose a loved one, and the last thing anyone wants to do is handle their affairs. However, you must ensure property and assets go to the right people, and everyone follows their final wishes.

The first thing you should do when your loved one passes away is to request a copy of a legal pronouncement of death. You should also notify close friends and family of their death. If necessary, arrange for the supervision of dependents or minor children. You’ll also be able to find instructions on how to move forward with their plans from their will or trust.

A trust is a document that places your assets into a trust fund to transfer to a beneficiary upon your death. Most people will create a trust to speed up the process of settling their estate. You can also protect your assets, reduce taxes, and prevent probate.

With a trust, you’re not only able to control who your assets go to but also how the money gets disbursed. This is especially beneficial if the person you’re leaving money to doesn’t know how to save and spend properly. You can create a payment schedule with a specified amount paid to them on a weekly or monthly basis, rather than as a lump sum.

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What planning we can sue for?

When a loved one dies, and the execution of their estate plan begins, many disputes can arise among family members. Despite the decedent's creation of a good estate plan, problems can occur if a power of attorney doesn’t perform their duties or someone’s unhappy with the division and distribution of assets.

The most common disputes estate lawyers see include:

Bad fiduciary selection

A majority of disputes arise when the power of attorney, executor, or trustee doesn’t correctly perform their duties when their loved one dies. That failure is called a breach of fiduciary duty. Common breaches include:

  • Failure to file tax returns
  • Using assets for personal benefit
  • Failure to provide tax and accounting information to beneficiaries
  • Dividing and distributing assets improperly

To avoid these issues, you should ensure your loved one chooses the right fiduciary during the process of planning their estate. Careful selection can ensure there’s no breach of duty, and they act in the deceased’s best interest.

Will or Trust Contest

When someone contests a trust or will, it’s either because they don’t think it’s legally valid or believe someone influenced the creator into making decisions they didn’t want to make.

To be legal, the creator of the will must sign under specific circumstances and in a particular manner. In Texas, the person must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Be of sound mind, meaning they’re able to make decisions and understand the consequences of a will;
  • Sign the will themselves;
  • Signature of at least two witnesses; and
  • List at least one beneficiary.

Improper execution of a will is less common than undue influence. Many will argue that the creator of the trust or will made their decisions because of another party. The person accused of undue influence could be a friend, caregiver, professional advisor, or family member.

Distribution of property

Sometimes conflicts will arise when the creator of a will or trust intends to leave someone their property but dies before they can change their estate plan to reflect that decision. Other instances create conflicts when beneficiaries believe the distribution of property is unfair or inequitable.

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How should I handle estate law disputes?

If you come across the disputes listed above or any other types of disputes, there are options for resolving them. The remedy you choose will depend on the particular conflict and the people involved.

  • Remove the executor: If there’s a problem with the executor of the estate, you might need to replace or remove them. Finding a replacement can be difficult, especially finding one that all parties are happy with. However, it’s the best decision to ensure everyone is satisfied with how the estate gets handled. The best choice would be a neutral third party who doesn’t hold any biases.
  • Litigation: To litigate a dispute, you must be an inheritor and have sufficient grounds for pursuing a lawsuit. Most people will litigate if they believe there was an improper distribution of the property or suffered a financial loss because someone mismanaged the estate.
  • Mediation: This is the best option for individuals who want to settle the issues amicably, timely, and inexpensively. Mediations usually bring about quick results and cost less than litigation. You also have complete control over the outcome because there isn’t a judge or jury involved.

The Firm

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall have over 100 years of combined experience in estate planning, probate, and litigation. We have the knowledge and skills to tackle complex legal issues, such as guardianships, will contests, fiduciary litigation, and trust litigation. We can also handle routine matters, such as estate administration, probating wills, heirship determinations, and other probate court matters.

Staubus and Randall received a preeminent AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating possible from a peer-rated legal service. This rating recognizes our hard work, dedication, and the case results we’re able to achieve.

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