A health care power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to pick a person who you know and trust to make future health care decisions for you. It only goes into effect if you become so ill, disabled, or incapacitated that you cannot make these decisions for yourself.
What Health Care Decisions Can the Agent Make?
Under Arizona law, you can choose which health care decisions you authorize the agent to make on your behalf. You can either authorize your agent to have full authority to make health care decisions, or you can authorize the specific powers that your agent has. Examples of health care decisions include:
- Consenting or refusing medical care, including diagnostic, surgical, or therapeutic procedures.
- Picking the health care providers who will care for you.
- Obligating your estate or resources to pay reasonable compensation for healthcare services that are provided.
- Approving or denying your admittance to health care institutions, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities.
- Accessing medical records and having the authority to discuss medical records with healthcare providers.
- Deciding whether you want an autopsy. In Arizona, an autopsy is not legally required unless the county medical examiner, the county attorney, or a superior court judge orders that it be performed.
- Deciding whether you want to make an organ or tissue donation.
In general, you cannot delegate the power to admit yourself into an inpatient psychiatric facility to your agent.
What Happens If You Don’t Have a Health Care Power of Attorney in Phoenix?
In general, if you do not have a health care power of attorney, your family will be called upon to make decisions if you are unable to do so. Arizona law states which family members have priority:
- The patient’s spouse.
- An adult child. If there is more than one adult child, the health care provider will seek the consent of the majority of the children.
- A parent of the patient.
- The patient’s domestic partner, if unmarried.
- A brother or sister of the patient.
- A close friend of the patient.
- The health care provider after consultation with an “institutional ethics committee.”
Problems can arise if your family members do not all agree. If there is a lot of disagreement, one of your family members or friends may be forced to petition the court to be appointed guardian. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
Even if there isn’t fighting, the person that is given responsibility under the law may make decisions that you would not have wanted. By failing to create a health care power of attorney, you lose the chance to have a say in your health care decisions.
Who Should You Name as Your Health Care Agent?
It is critical to name someone who you trust to act in your best interests as your health care agent. Additionally, the person that you choose should be able to handle pressure and remain calm in a crisis. Often, they will have to make crucial decisions in a very emotional and stressful environment. The decisions they are making could be the difference between life and death, so you should choose someone adept at asking questions and collecting information. It is good practice to appoint a back-up in case the individual is unable or unwilling to serve.
Once you decide your health care agent, you should have a discussion with this person to ensure they are willing to serve. You should also discuss the decision with other family and friends to explain your choice. In addition to talking with family and friends, it is advisable to speak to your doctor, clergy person, and lawyer before picking a health care agent and completing a health care power of attorney.
What Are the Legal Requirements for a Health Care Power of Attorney in Arizona?
Arizona law has specific requirements for a health care power of attorney.
- You must be 18 years or older to create a health care power of attorney.
- It must be in writing.
- The writing must show that there was intent to create a health care power of attorney.
- It must be signed and dated.
- It must be witnessed and signed by a notary or an individual over 18.
- The witness cannot be currently designated to make healthcare decisions for this person; cannot be directly involved in administering healthcare to this person; cannot be entitled to any portion of this person’s estate upon his or her death; and cannot be related to the person by blood, marriage, or adoption.
The health care power of attorney must meet the above rules, or it will not be valid in Phoenix.
Your Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney
If you have questions about creating a health care power of attorney in Phoenix, you should reach out to Nicole Pavlik Law Firm. A health care power of attorney is an important estate planning tool that can save your family a lot of heartache. Call Nicole Pavlik Law Firm today at 602-635-6176 for a free consultation.