Designate Medical Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy

Plan for the Future

Instead of a living will, you can appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf while incapacitated.

This is usually a spouse/family member, otherwise you'll have to set up a power of attorney arrangement with a third party. Bear in mind that the appointed person does not have to accept this role, so have a conversation with them first.

Medical POAs can also be called advanced directives, power of attorney for healthcare, medical power of attorney directive, or advanced healthcare directive.

Helpful Tips


When you appoint someone as your healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney agent, you can give them specific or general authority.

Regardless of whether you give specific or general powers, make sure your chosen agent is someone who you can trust to follow your directions and preferences if and when the time comes. Discuss which powers you’d like your agent to have with your estate planning lawyer.

You can also determine under which circumstances the agent is allowed to act.

For example, you might give your agent permission to make healthcare decisions if you:

  • Were under general anesthesia
  • Have dementia
  • Experienced an incident or illness like a stroke that left you unable to communicate
  • Had an accident that left you in an unconscious state

Personal Considerations


Have you designated a medical power of attorney?


Make sure this person is aware of their appointment and any specific instructions you’d like for them to know if and when they need to serve.

Provide a copy of yours to your primary care physician or other doctors you work with on a regular basis.


Consider if and when you’d like to appoint someone to this role and which powers you’d like for them to have.

It is best to work directly with an estate planning lawyer to create this document to ensure it follows your wishes and complies with any state laws.


If you have designated a medical power of attorney:

Make sure this person is aware of their appointment and any specific instructions you’d like for them to know if and when they need to serve.

Provide a copy of yours to your primary care physician or other doctors you work with on a regular basis.

If you have not designated a medical power of attorney:

Consider if and when you’d like to appoint someone to this role and which powers you’d like for them to have.

It is best to work directly with an estate planning lawyer to create this document to ensure it follows your wishes and complies with any state laws.


Do you have a living will?


Review this document at least once a year. If your preferences have changed or if the appointed person is no longer willing or able to serve, work with an estate planning lawyer to update this.

Make sure your heirs know who your chosen agent is to decrease the possibility of future disputes.

Typically, a spouse is the agent named in a living will, but you can choose someone else.

Heirs first on the scene might assume they have the right to make decisions on your behalf, but they must respect the wishes and authority of a named agent on a living will.


Consider creating one with the help of an estate planning lawyer.

Make sure your heirs know who your chosen agent is to decrease the possibility of future disputes.

Typically, a spouse is the agent named in a living will, but you can choose someone else.

Heirs first on the scene might assume they have the right to make decisions on your behalf but they must respect the wishes and authority of a named agent on a living will.


If you have a living will:

Review this document at least once a year. If your preferences have changed or if the appointed person is no longer willing or able to serve, work with an estate planning lawyer to update this.

Make sure your heirs know who your chosen agent is to decrease the possibility of future disputes.

Typically, a spouse is the agent named in a living will, but you can choose someone else.

Heirs first on the scene might assume they have the right to make decisions on your behalf, but they must respect the wishes and authority of a named agent on a living will.

If you do not have a living wil:

Consider creating one with the help of an estate planning lawyer.

Make sure your heirs know who your chosen agent is to decrease the possibility of future disputes.

Typically, a spouse is the agent named in a living will, but you can choose someone else.

Heirs first on the scene might assume they have the right to make decisions on your behalf but they must respect the wishes and authority of a named agent on a living will.


Do you have heirs?


Such as a spouse or adult children, they may be designated as medical POA.


Consider other important people in your life who can serve as medical POA for you.


If you have heirs:

Such as a spouse or adult children, they may be designated as medical POA.

If you do not have heir:

Consider other important people in your life who can serve as medical POA for you.

Providers to Contact


Estate Attorneys Near You

Estate planning attorneys can help you plan for your incapacity or death. They can also help you create a medical power of attorney that complies with your state’s laws.

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Plan for the Future