A power of attorney is simply a legal document where you name another person (called an “agent”) to perform some action on your behalf. There are lots of different types of powers of attorney. In estate planning there are two main powers of attorney: a power of attorney for health care and a power of attorney for property.
In very basic terms a power of attorney for health care in Illinois authorizes an agent to make medical decisions for you. If you do not have a power of attorney for health care, the hospital or medical provider cannot take directions from anyone besides you, and they most likely will not share medical treatment or information even with family. Ordinarily if you are competent and conscious this is not a problem; however, if you are incapacitated or unconscious or incompetent, then your friends and family can be left in the dark on your medical care and treatment.
Who qualifies to act as an agent? Generally anyone at least 18 years old and someone who is of sound mind and memory. However, not everyone should be an agent for someone else. Deciding who should act as your agent is a complex and personal decision that should not be entered into lightly. People should consider the following factors at a minimum before selecting an agent:
- How well do you know the person?
- How well do they know you?
- Do they live nearby or would they be able to travel if necessary?
- Would you trust them making decisions for you?
- Would you trust them with your life?
- Are you comfortable with the person knowing your medical history?
- Do they already know your medical history?
- Will the person be comfortable or even able to make decisions on your behalf?
- Can this person handle stress well?
These are just a few factors that should be considered when selecting an agent.
Once the agent is selected and you have executed the power of attorney for health care with your attorney, you should give your agent a copy as well as your doctors. You should then have a conversation with your agent so that they can become familiar with your wishes so that if the time ever comes they will be more comfortable making decisions.
Your agent, if the time ever comes, can talk with your doctors and the hospital, see medical records or reports, authorize treatment, authorize end of life decisions, and many other actions. A power of attorney for health care can also specifically limit broad powers as you see fit. It is important to talk with qualified attorneys to draft the health care power of attorney for you. We routinely work with clients in drafting a power of attorney for health care and many other powers of attorney. Whether the power of attorney is part of an estate plan, is accompanied by a will and living will or whether you just need a power of attorney drafted prior to medical treatment we work with clients throughout Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Bartlett, Palatine, Barrington, Streamwood, and throughout Chicago and the Northwest Suburbs.