Creating a comprehensive estate plan typically includes much more than simply executing a Last Will and Testament. While your Will should be the cornerstone of your estate plan you will likely find that additional documents are necessary to accomplish all of your estate planning goals. One document that many people choose to include in their estate plan is a Missouri Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions. You should always consult with your estate planning attorney when deciding what documents to include in your overall estate plan; however, a basic understanding of what a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions accomplishes is a good place to start.
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows the principal, or the person executing the document, to give an agent legal authority to act on behalf of the principal. A power of attorney can be general, limited, or specific. A general power of attorney gives your agent virtually unlimited legal authority to act on your behalf. A limited power of attorney allows your agent to act on your behalf in a specific transaction or during a limited period of time. A specific power of attorney allows your agent authority to act in a specific area, such as when making health care decisions. Finally, the term “durable” means that the power of attorney will survive your incapacity. In other words, your agent will retain his or her powers in the event you are determined to be legally incapacitated.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions allows you to appoint an agent who will have legal authority overeager healthcare affairs in the event you become incapacitated or disabled. Your agent will essentially have the same authority that you would have but for your incapacity or disability. For example, your agent will decide what doctors you will treat with and what medical treatment you will receive.
The advantage to executing a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions is that it avoids the need for a loved one to seek legal guardianship in the event of your incapacity. In the absence of a healthcare POA it may be necessary for a loved one to petition a court for the right to make decisions on your behalf. Moreover, more than one person could petition for that right, resulting in a time-consuming and costly legal battle. If you think that a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions would be a valuable addition to your estate plan consult with your estate planning attorney.