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What is a durable power of attorney for health care?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2024 | Estate Planning |

A durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC) is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated due to age, injury or illness. 

In California, this document should be considered a foundational component of comprehensive estate planning, as it can help to ensure that your medical preferences are honored even if you cannot communicate them under your own power. 

Key features 

The primary function of a DPAHC is to designate an agent, also known as a health care proxy or as the function of the agent – a medical power of attorney. This person will have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. It’s important to choose someone who understands your values and wishes regarding your health care.

The agent’s authority can be broad or limited based on your preferences. They may be empowered to make decisions about medical treatments, surgical procedures, nursing home placement and end-of-life care, among other things. You can specify the extent of their decision-making power before that authorization can be transferred. As long as you are mentally competent, you retain the right to revoke or change your DPAHC terms or agent designation at any time. 

If you fail to put a DPAHC in place, family members might face legal challenges and delays when trying to make decisions on your behalf. Appointing a health care proxy provides a clear directive, reducing the risk of potential conflicts and better ensuring prompt medical care. By appointing a trusted agent and outlining your medical preferences proactively, you can provide peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.