Medical Power of Attorney

Last Updated: 8/5/2015

Document Description

A medical power of attorney (also known as a health care power of attorney) is a document that authorizes someone else to make medical decisions for you, in case you become incapacitated. It should not be confused with an advance health directive or living will, which states your wishes for health care in case you are incapacitated, but does not authorize a specific person to make your health care decisions for you. (Read more at How Is a Medical Power of Attorney Different from a Living Will?)

While many people are initially tempted to name their spouse, parent or child as their agent, many attorneys and health planning experts recommend that you choose someone slightly further removed to make medical decisions on your behalf. Immediate family members can be too emotionally distraught to make the kind of decisions you would want made for your own care. While many people say that they do not want to be artificially sustained on life support if they are in a persistent vegetative state, it is sometimes too painful for a spouse to authorize the removal of life support.

For the same reasons, most health planning experts recommend that everyone prepare both a medical power of attorney and a living will/health directive: one to authorize a single person for decisions, and the other to express your wishes in writing to help guide those decisions.

Medical powers of attorney are limited to health care decisions, and do not extend to financial decisions.

Lastly, it’s critically important that you create a power of attorney or living will while healthy, so that there are no disputes later about your lucidity or state of mind. Healthy people can be incapacitated at a moment’s notice, so people of all ages are encouraged to have a valid health care power of attorney and living will/health directive.

NOTE: While it is recommended that everyone have their health care power of attorney notarized, it is only required in Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. Florida residents should use the Florida Medical Power of Attorney instead of this document.

  • CA Assist:

    Laws that govern the power of attorney in the state of California are found under the California Probate Code, SECTION 4260-4266 .

    The power of attorney is either
    (1) acknowledged before a notary public or
    (2) signed by at least two witnesses who satisfy the requirements for witnesses below.
    WITNESSES: If the power of attorney is signed by witnesses, the following requirements shall be satisfied:
    (1) The witnesses shall be adults.
    (2) The attorney-in-fact may not act as a witness.
    (3) Each witness signing the power of attorney shall witness either the signing of the instrument by the principal or the principal’s acknowledgment of the signature or the power of attorney.

  • WV Assist:

    West Virginia possesses laws pertaining to preparedness for health care are located in the CHAPTER 16. PUBLIC HEALTH. ARTICLE 30. WEST VIRGINIA HEALTH CARE DECISIONS ACT.

    Basic Rules for the Execution of the Medical Power of Attorney in West Virginia
    Any competent adult may execute a medical power of attorney, however, It must be
    (1) In writing;
    (2) executed by the principal or by another person in the principal's presence at the principal's express direction if the principal is physically unable to do so;
    (3) dated;
    (4) signed in the presence of two or more witnesses at least eighteen years of age; and
    (5) signed and attested before a notary public as provided in subsection (d) of this section.

    NOTE: a witness may not be:
    (1) The person who signed the medical power of attorneyl
    (2) Related to the principal by blood or marriage;
    (3) Entitled to any portion of the estate of the principal under any will of the principal or codicil
    (4) Directly financially responsible for principal's medical care;
    (5) The attending physician; or
    (6) The principal's medical power of attorney representative or successor medical power of attorney representative.

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