What If I Don’t Have a Power of Attorney for Healthcare?
The Power of Attorney is the most effective estate planning tool that an individual can have. It is also the easiest to put in place. It is impossible to predict an accident or the onset of a serious illness. With a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, you can nominate a person to act on your behalf to make decisions based on your personal values and wishes if you are unable to make these decisions yourself. The person you nominate or name in your Power of Attorney for Healthcare is called your “agent.”
Unfortunately, you may not have a person that you trust enough to act calm under pressure and follow your wishes. If for some reason, you are faced with this situation, you can still take steps to verify that your doctors follow your wishes. Talk to your physician and work with them so that your wishes are in writing in their charts. You also may draft a “living will” with the help of an attorney.
An Agent vs A Surrogate
Under the law, what happens if you do NOT have a Power of Attorney for Healthcare and you suffer a traumatic accident or a sudden illness rendering you incapable of making healthcare decisions? Typically, your physician or other health care provider will ask a family member, friend, or guardian to make decisions for you. In Illinois, there is a law that directs which of your family members will be consulted. The individuals consulted are called a “surrogate.” However, problems often arise with surrogates. First, the person named by the law may not be the person you would want making decisions for you. This is especially true in situations involving a long-term committed partnership. For example, your partner will not be given the same preference as a parent or a sibling.
Another problem with a surrogate is that the person directed by law may not be willing or able to make the decisions that you want made. Some family members simply cannot act during a crisis involving a loved one. Or, some of your family members may disagree with your values regarding end of life care. Additionally, family members may disagree about what the best course of action for you may be. They may disagree on medical care, physicians, and hospitals. In any event, it is highly likely that you and your surrogate have never discussed your wishes and they have no guidance on how to act on your behalf. Naming an agent in a Power of Attorney of Healthcare will alleviate these potential problems and ensure that your wishes are carried out by a person of your choosing.
Contact Hays Firm With Questions About Power of Attorney for Healthcare
It is important for you and your family to have a comprehensive estate plan in place to protect you and your loved ones during your life and after your death. If you have any questions a Power of Attorney for Healthcare and other estate planning documents please feel free to contact Hays Firm LLC to discuss how we can help you.