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Healthcare Power of Attorney Formalities

There are a few technical requirements with which you must comply before a healthcare power of attorney will be considered legally valid and binding.

Signing

Every state law requires that you sign your document or that you direct another person to sign it for you. This is to ensure that you understand the document and that it contains your true wishes. All states also require that you sign your documents in the presence of witnesses and/or a notary public. The purpose of this extra step is so that there is at least one other person who can attest that you were of sound mind and legal age when you made the document.

Witnessing

Many states require that two witnesses watch you sign your healthcare power of attorney document and that they confirm in writing that you signed the document without anyone else influencing your decision. Each state’s qualifications for these witnesses are somewhat different. In many states, any person who would inherit property from you is not allowed to act as a witness for the document designating your healthcare power of attorney. Many states also prohibit your attending physician from being a witness. The purpose of laws restricting who can witness your document is to avoid any appearance or possibility that another person was acting in opposition to your wishes in encouraging particular medical care.

Notarizing

A notary is a public officer authorized to verify signatures on documents. A notary will charge a small fee for notarizing your documents. If you do go to a notary, you must be able to prove to her that you are who you claim you are, so be sure to bring some identification.

Keeping Your Document

You should keep your healthcare power of attorney document and your living will together. If you have named a medical proxy, she will need to have a copy of your living will to find out the specific details of your medical care directions. Hospital staff will need to see a copy of the healthcare power of attorney document that authorizes your medical proxy to supervise your wishes, to get copies of your medical records, and to hire and fire medical personnel. Once you execute a healthcare power of attorney and a living will, you should review them occasionally to make sure they still accurately reflect your medical care wishes. Changes in technology and in your health may prompt you to alter your previous healthcare decisions. In addition, you should consider making new documents if you move to another state or if the medical proxy you named to supervise your wishes becomes unable to do so.