September 11, 2013   Estate Planning

Pitfalls of a Healthcare Power of Attorney & 3 Ways to Protect Yourself

A healthcare power of attorney is an important part of most estate plans, and for good reason. Through a healthcare power of attorney, a person can designate the individual responsible for making medical decisions on his or her behalf, should he or she become incapacitated. Individuals should be cautious, however, as a healthcare power of attorney comes with its own set of risks.
Healthcare power of attorney documents are not foolproof. Often, defects in these documents are not discovered until after the creator becomes incapacitated. For example, your agent under a healthcare power of attorney may not discover that your documents were executed incorrectly until the point that he or she attempts to make a decision on your behalf.
Another potential problem with a healthcare power of attorney occurs when a person executes the document later in his or her life. In order to avoid challenges to your healthcare power of attorney, it is important to execute it when you are undeniably competent to do so. Otherwise, a loved one may challenge the validity of the document.
Because of the importance of decisions that get made through a healthcare power of attorney, some healthcare providers are reluctant to honor documents that are more than a few years old. It’s a hassle, but renewing powers of attorney every few years can go a long way toward making sure they’re honored when you really need them.
Although there are several pitfalls to a healthcare power of attorney, this is still an important part of every estate plan. Be sure to create the plan early, and customize it to your individual situation and desires. When naming an agent, name a person that you trust completely to make medical decisions for you. Further, review this decision on a regular basis to ensure that this person is still the person that you want to make medical decisions for you, and that they are willing to serve as such.

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