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Monday, September 17, 2012

Can my health care PoA be "durable"?

Here's another good reader question. This one is asking about whether health care directives can be "durable" powers of attorney. I find that people get confused about how the concept of durability affects a document, so I'd like to answer the question here for everyone to read. Here's the question:

"Can any type of power of attorney document be durable? Like can I have a Durable Heath Care Power of Attorney Form?"

There are two basic kinds of documents that name someone to act for another person when that person loses capacity to make his or her own decisions. One is a document that gives someone - called the attorney - the authority to make decisions about money and property. Most of the time that document is simply called a Power of Attorney, though in some places it's also called Power of Attorney for Property.

The other kind of document is one that gives someone the authority to act under health, medical or person decisions. This goes by many names, including Personal Directive, Health Care Proxy, Advance Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney for Health Care. This is the type that the reader's question addresses.

The basic reason for making either of these documents is to have someone of your choice lined up to make decisions if you can't do that any more due to loss of mental capacity. The word "durable", also called "enduring" or "continuing", means that the document endures through your loss of capacity, should it happen. That's the whole point of it - to have something that covers you in that situation.

In other words, yes, these documents can and should be "durable".

A person who acts under a standard health care document ONLY does so when the person can't speak for himself or herself, therefore that document must be durable. If the document wasn't "durable" and collapsed when you lost capacity, it would be little more than a waste of paper.

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