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What Are the Key Considerations When Choosing a Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions in Arizona?

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What Is a Health Care Power of Attorney?

A “Power of Attorney” or POA, is a legal document that gives another person the authority to act on your behalf. A health care power of attorney is a form of POA that authorizes an adult to make health care decisions on your behalf when you can no longer speak for yourself. Situations where you may not be able to communicate your healthcare wishes could arise due to unexpected severe mental or physical illness, accident, or injury.

When Should I Consider Choosing a Power of Attorney For Health Care Decisions?

While you may think it is not necessary to execute a healthcare power of attorney until you are much older, it is never too early to be prepared. While we all hope to maintain good health throughout our lives, healthcare POAs are specifically created to form an organized plan of action in case of emergencies. If no planning is done while you are in good health and of sound mind, it opens the door to a more stressful and uncertain future should anything go wrong.

Who Should I Choose as My Agent in a Health Care Power of Attorney?

The basic function of a health care POA is to legally authorize a person, called an “agent” or “health care agent,” to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation. While you can assign almost anyone to be your agent, there are some factors you may want to consider in making the best decision:

  • Trustworthiness. You should feel confident the person you choose will keep their word.
  • An understanding of your healthcare wishes. Your agent would ideally understand your unique healthcare needs and requests should you experience an emergency.
  • Willingness to execute your wishes. The chosen person should not be hindered by personal considerations in carrying out your health care directives.
  • Ability to ask questions and understand different treatment options. Someone who is smart and inquisitive and gets all the information before taking action can work in your best interest.
  • Assertiveness. As healthcare professionals or family members may have differing views regarding your care, your agent should be assertive enough to stand up for what you directed to be done.
  • Level-headedness under stress. An agent who can remain calm in tense situations is important when they must make tough decisions quickly on your behalf.
  • Ability to communicate. Your healthcare agent will need to be able to keep doctors directed and family members aware of your care, preferably in a calm, informative way.
  • Proximity to your location. While not always top of mind, if an agent lives far away, it may be difficult for them to respond rapidly or take long periods away from home or work to see to your care.

The only person you cannot assign as a health care agent is your medical provider or their employees.

What are the Basic Steps to Assign Power of Attorney?

An attorney can assist you to ensure your healthcare power of attorney is executed according to Arizona Revised Statute § 14-5501. For informational purposes, these are the basic steps to complete the process:

  1. Decide who you are going to name as your agent. Take the time to consider the best option for your healthcare agent so you receive the highest level of care in your time of need.
  2. Prepare the papers. Fill out the health care power of attorney forms or have these tailored to your specific wishes by a qualified attorney. The POA must contain clear language that outlines your intentions, identifies the agent, and contains formal statements for yourself and a witness to sign.
  3. Choose a witness. By law, the witness must be someone “other than the agent, the agent’s spouse, the agent’s children, or the notary public.” Choosing an impartial individual, rather than a family member or someone who might benefit from the POA arrangement is also a good idea.
  4. Get the document notarized. Meet with a notary public and have the POA legally signed and witnessed. You may want to have more than one set of documents notarized so you can keep an original copy. Keep your copy in a safe place.
  5. Distribute the completed document to all concerned. Provide your agent with an original notarized copy of your health care POA. They must present it as evidence if they ever have to act on your behalf. Provide photocopies of the original to other interested parties as you see fit. This may include important family members or your medical support team.

Can I Revoke a Power of Attorney Once Finalized?

As long as you are of sound mind, you may revoke a health care power of attorney at any time. The process to revoke a POA is similar to how one is instated. You must fill out a revocation form and have this witnessed and notarized. You will have canceled the power of attorney by providing copies of the legal revocation to anyone who had a copy of the original POA, including your former healthcare agent.

What Happens If I Become Mentally Incapacitated Without a Finalized Power of Attorney?

If you become incapacitated without a health care power of attorney or an advance medical directive, your health care provider will be charged with finding a substitute guardian, called a “surrogate,” to direct your care. This process is governed by Arizona Revised Statute § 36-3231. Without a POA, critical decisions about your health and life could fall to:

  • Your husband, wife, or significant other,
  • Your adult child or children,
  • Your parents,
  • Your siblings,
  • A close friend,
  • Or even another doctor if no available or willing surrogate can be found.

Seeking Peace of Mind? Choose Someone You Can Trust.

When potential emergencies are predicted and planned for, they can be smoothly handled. The Turner Law Firm PLLC is here to provide you with peace of mind by getting the details right on subjects that matter to you, like your health. If you or a loved one are considering executing a healthcare power of attorney, we are here to help. Contact us at (480) 618-1221 to discuss your unique power of attorney needs.

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