Our Estate Planning Blog

COVID-19 UPDATE: Now’s the Time to Name a Healthcare Agent

Name a Healthcare Agent
In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to have your legal, financial and medical ducks in a row.

If you have not yet executed a valid Illinois Medical Power of Attorney to name a healthcare agent, stop procrastinating and get this crucial planning in place now.

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney is a legal document you use to give someone else authority to make medical decisions for you when you can no longer make them yourself.  This person, also known as an agent or proxy, can make critical decisions for you when you are unable to make key decisions yourself.

Other Terms for Medical Power of Attorney

Depending on the state where you live, the medical power of attorney may be called something else. You may have seen this referred to as a health care power of attorney, an advance directive, advance health care directive, a durable power of attorney for health care, etc. There are many variations, but they all mean fundamentally the same thing.

Be aware that each state has their own laws about medical powers of attorney, so it’s important to work with a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure your decisions will be enforced through legally binding documents. Also, some states may not honor documents from other states, so even if you made these decisions and created documents in another state, it’s wise to review with an estate attorney to ensure they are legally valid in your state now. Illinois has a statutory form with very specific language. It is generally advantageous for you to use these statutory forms when possible so that there is no time lost in a crisis.  Using a non-standard form can cause unnecessary and troubling delays while hospitals and doctors confirm the enforceability and meaning of these documents.  If you name a healthcare agent, but do so in a way that causes additional difficulty for your family, it can be a real source of difficulty for your family and your doctors.

What Can My Medical Agent Do for Me?

Just like there are many different terms for the medical power of attorney, there also are different terms for the medical agent – this person may be referred to as an attorney-in-fact, a health proxy, or surrogate.

Some of the things a medical POA authorizes your agent to decide for you:

  • Which doctors or facilities to work with and whether to change
  • Give consent for additional testing or treatment
  • How aggressively to treat
  • Whether to disconnect life support

I am ready to help walk you through these decisions, understand the ramifications of your choices, and memorialize your plans in binding legal documents.  I am conducting the entire estate planning process for Chicagoland clients via remote conferences and telephone.  Reach out now for more details.  If you do not want to or are unable to scan your existing documents, as a Naperville estate planning attorney, I am happy to have you drop off existing documents here and I never charge for a review.  Book a call and I can answer any questions you may have.

You can also learn more about all sorts of healthcare directives and the issues surrounding them at my blog.


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