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Understanding durable power of attorney for health care

power of attorney

As people age, their mental capacity usually decreases. While this may cause minor inconveniences with regard to misplacing items, etc., decreased mental capacity becomes more of an issue when the individual must make important decisions regarding his or her future health care and financial needs. Added to that is the circumstance in which a person may be totally incapacitated by illness or injury and cannot make decisions regarding continued life support and other health care needs. This is why Ohio, like many other states, allows people to choose a durable power of attorney for health care to help make important decisions regarding health care, life support and intervention, and more.

What is a durable power of attorney for health care?

While Ohio’s statutory durable power of attorney does not authorize another party to make health care-related decisions on behalf of another, the state has what is called a durable power of attorney for health care. The document gives a trusted individual the authority to make decisions regarding medical procedures, treatment and intervention, prolonging the life support process and giving informed consent, among others.

To create a durable power of attorney for health care, the principal (i.e., the one giving decision-making rights to another) must be an adult of sound mind at the time, and the document must be signed and dated in the presence of two adult witnesses and/or notarized. The document will not expire unless the principal specified an expiration date and may be revoked at any time for any reason. In addition, the durable power of attorney for health care takes precedence over other instruments.

Importance of durable power of attorney for health care

No one knows what the future will bring. Someone can suffer a stroke, get in a serious accident or in myriad other ways suffer complete mental incapacity or unconsciousness. Having a durable power of attorney for health care is important in order to secure a trusted individual to make potentially life-altering decisions for another. Otherwise, the principal’s wishes may never be known. Anyone interested in creating such an instrument should discuss the matter with an experienced estate planning attorney.