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A medical power of attorney, also known as a "healthcare power of attorney," or "healthcare proxy," is a document used as part of an estate plan to allow a person of your choice (your agent) to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event that you (the grantor) become incapacitated. It is very important that a medical power of attorney is created prior to a medical emergency occurring because the the grantor must have the capacity to enter into the agreement. In North Carolina, a medical power of attorney springs into effect at the point that a physician certifies that the grantor can no longer make medical decisions on his or her own. Where a Living Will dictates medical directives in very specific scenarios typically involving end of life scenarios, a medical power of attorney provides your selected Healthcare Agent with broad discretion in making medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated.
Note: A medical power of attorney is effective for only medical and healthcare decisions as laid out in the power of attorney. A separate general power of attorney (aka, "Financial" or "Durable") must be created in order to appoint someone to handle financial and business matters.
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Note: North Carolina law is specific in the information that may be included in a Medical Power of Attorney, the manner and methods by which the document may be created, and the steps necessary to execute the document. Failing to follow any of these rules may invalidate an otherwise enforceable Power of Attorney.
To speak with one of our Charlotte Wills and Estate lawyers regarding powers of attorney and your estate plan, contact us at 704-412-1442.
When creating a healthcare power of attorney, you must choose a representative (your "Healthcare Agent" or "Proxy") to represent your interests in medical decisions in the event that you become incapacitated. Most people choose either their spouse, significant other, a family member, or a close friend to act as their agent in their healthcare power of attorney. It is important that you fully trust the person you select to be your agent. It is also important to inform your agent of any specific requests you have regarding treatment, religious limitations, known allergies, medical history, and any other desires you may have regarding your medical treatment. It is also a good idea to let your agent know about any other medical documents you have executed, such as a living will. It is difficult to foresee all potential scenarios in the event of an accident or unexpected health emergency. Having a medical power of attorney in place is an inexpensive way to ensure that someone you trust is looking after your medical interests in the event that you become incapacitated.
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A medical or healthcare power of attorney is an important document to have as part of an estate plan, but many people neglect to create one for themselves while healthy. Unfortunately, many people do not realize they need a power of attorney until the point that an accident or unexpected medical emergency occurs. At this point, the person needing to grant a power of attorney lacks the capacity (due to injury, medical emergency, illness, or incompetence) to create such a document. Most states allow family members to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated or incompetent individual in the absence of a healthcare power of attorney or guardian of the person being appointed.
However, this can create issue if there is disagreement within the family, if you don't trust certain family members to make decisions on your behalf, and/or if your spouse is incapacitated as well. Unfortunately, if a loved one is incapacitated or incompetent without a power of attorney in place and there is dispute as to who should make decisions for them, the main legal remedy is to have a guardian of the person appointed through a court proceeding. We can help represent your interests in a guardianship proceeding. To learn more about guardianship, the process involved, and the resulting consequences, visit our guardianship page.
We can help.
To speak to one our attorneys regarding your estate plan, Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, or other Estate Planning document, call us at 704-412-1442.
To speak with one of our lawyers regarding powers of attorney and your estate plan, contact us at 704-412-1442.