Your medical power of attorney is one of the most important parts of your estate plan. Almost everybody, at some point, will need someone to make decisions about their personal care for them. Yet, many people choose their health care power of attorney based on nothing more than their relationship to that person — without regard to whether that’s really the right person for the job.

The person who holds your health care power of attorney (POA) could eventually be in charge of allowing medical procedures, deciding when to end treatment, choosing your doctors, making anatomical gifts after your death, disposing of your remains and more. Here are the things you need to consider when picking someone:

  • Do they live close by? If you’re in critical care, your POA may find the situation difficult to manage from a distance.
  • Are they fairly comfortable with medical issues? You want a POA who can understand what medical professionals are saying to them and will make rational decisions about your care based on what they are told.
  • Are they comfortable with your choices? You may have some strong opinions about your medical care, especially end-of-life care. You don’t want a POA who won’t respect your wishes because of their own belief system.
  • Are they assertive? If things get tough, will they be able to handle the family members who oppose their decisions and advocate for your wishes to be followed?
  • Are they loyal? Trust is very important between you and your POA. Don’t choose anyone you wouldn’t literally trust with your life.
  • Are they willing? Being someone’s medical POA is a big job and a bigger moral and emotional responsibility. Not everyone is prepared to handle it. Don’t assume someone is willing unless you ask.

An attorney can often provide the dispassionate guidance you need to help you make a final selection. If you don’t have a health care power of attorney, it’s time to stop delaying the decision-making process.

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