Taking Control of Your Future Requires a Health Care Power of Attorney

Heath Care Power of Attorney legal documentsSuccessfully navigating major lifestyle changes involves taking control of your own future.  Making decisions about your future medical care should be done while you are healthy and have the time to consider your options and discuss them with your most trusted friends or family. While you often need a lawyer to draft necessary legal documents, in a few instances free standard forms are provided by reliable sources. One free form that everyone should download and complete is the form which allows you to decide who will make health care decisions for you when you can’t because of a health care emergency.  Listing an emergency contact in your iPhone health care app is not enough to give that person the legal authority to make medical decisions for you.

Advice for Appointing Emergency Contacts in Washington State

Whenever someone asks you to be their emergency contact, you should ask if they have prepared a health care power of attorney.  During the admission process at any hospital or long-term care facility, you will be asked if the patient has a health care power of attorney, often called an Advanced Directive. Most states provide a form, either approved by the state legislature, the State Bar Association or the State Medical Association.  There is no need to pay an internet provider of legal forms for this essential document. The Washington State Medical Association provides a Health Care Directive and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care form that is recognized and accepted by all Washington medical professionals.  Also, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services provides a Mental Health Advance Directive form that allows you to make decisions in advance of a mental health condition that impairs your judgment or prevents you from communicating your decisions about what treatment you want or don’t want. Another reliable form is available from the non-profit group, End of Life Washington, for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Advance Directive.

What Does a Health Care Directive Encompass?

A health care directive is not just a “DNR” or DO NOT RESUSITATE decision when life-sustaining options must be chosen.  A health care directive allows you to name the person who will act as your health care agent to help medical professionals treat you when you are unconscious or unable to communicate, including such simple tasks as authorizing release of your private medical history and insurance information.

Submitting, Storing and Updating Your Advanced Directive Documents

After you have completed the forms, you should give a copy to your designated agent, and it’s a good idea to download a copy to your phone.  These documents can be changed at any time, so lifestyle changes may demand changes to your health care directive.  If you previously designated your soon to be former spouse as your health care agent, or if your child is now an adult, you may want to act promptly to update your choices.  The power of attorney form must be notarized, and the health care directive must be signed by two witnesses.  Free notary services are available for account holders at most credit unions and local banks.  If you’re ready to engage us for a comprehensive estate plan, we’ll prepare these documents for you.

Molly B. Kenny
Founder and Principal Divorce Attorney
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