This week we are going to talk about why you need a medical power of attorney, even if your spouse is available to make decisions for you.
In a medical emergency, there is an assumption that your spouse would be the health care agent, make health care decisions, and deal with the hospital and doctors on your behalf. However, what happens when a spouse is separated, no longer wants to be in contact, or doesn’t agree with your health care values?
If this happened to you, would you still want them to make decisions for you? Do you want your adult children to make medical decisions for you? What if your spouse and children disagree on what type of treatment(s) you should receive? When faced with an emergency, please consider having your medical Power of Attorney already in place.
What happens if you don’t have a Medical Power of Attorney?
There are many situations that can arise when you become incapacitated or have a healthcare emergency. Even if it seems unlikely that your spouse would be disinterested in your health, it’s important to remember that your spouse may have trouble thinking clearly in an emergency or may also be seeking medical care. A medical Power of Attorney with an agent that is capable of making medical decisions, even in an emergency, can lower the risk and confusion regarding your medical decisions.
What is a Medical Power of Attorney and why you need one.
A medical Power of Attorney, also known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, is a document that allows you to appoint someone as an “agent” to make decisions about your health care. This agent will make decisions on your behalf if you become too ill or incapacitated. A medical Power of Attorney ensures that your wishes will be followed. We have an experienced estate planning and probate attorney here in Nashville who can help you customize these decisions and record how choices will be made.
How to choose the best Agent for your situation
When you are choosing your medical agent for your Medical Power of Attorney, it is important that you choose someone you can trust to adhere to your preferences regarding your medical care. Discuss your wishes with your agent before they need to make any care decisions. Make sure that you have confidence that your Agent will make the right decisions about things you two have not discussed.
Conclusion: Why everyone needs a Medical Power of Attorney
It is important to think about what you would want in a medical emergency. Do you want your spouse to always make decisions for you?
Designate ONE person authorized to make decisions for you if you are unable to make or communicate your wishes. Even if you want your spouse to make those decisions, it’s always a good idea to have a “backup” person. This backup person can help out with decision-making in case your spouse is unavailable when someone needs to step in.
Whatever you decide, you should have a Medical Power of Attorney. Write your power of attorney in conjunction with your advanced directive (also known as a living will). All of these documents are an important part of a well-thought-out estate plan.
Do you have a plan for emergencies? Do you want help putting your values on paper? Take our Virtual Estate Planning Challenge! This 7-part Challenge helps you brainstorm the important stuff before creating your estate plan. We had a ton of fun making it and think you’ll really benefit from it too.
From a legal standpoint, moms and dads don’t have a lot of rights after you turn eighteen. But we often rely on our parents more than we realize, something I was jerked into remembering during my junior year of college when I was rushed to the emergency room and soon told that the surgical team was ready for me. Ummmm….can’t I call my mom first???!!!
Fortunately my situation worked out, but as a lawyer, I can’t help thinking about what if I had not been awake to call my parents. What if I needed more extreme medical treatment and couldn’t tell the doctors what I wanted?
This is where you can learn from my mistakes. Get your legal shit together before you head off to college. Or after. But as soon as you can. I will even help you get everything completed by video call.
As a bona fide adult, you need a minimum of three documents in case of an emergency:
Healthcare Power of Attorney– This document allows you to appoint someone you trust to be your health care agent if you ever become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.
Financial Power of Attorney– A financial power of attorney allows you to give someone else permission to access bank accounts and act financially on your behalf if an emergency occurs. That means paying bills, completing financial aid or loan applications, dealing with insurance companies, and other ways that, well, adulting sucks. You’ll need to choose whether you want this to become effective immediately or only when you are unable to handle your own business.
Signed HIPAA Form– Now that your parents don’t have access to your medical records, you might want to consider authorizing someone to see them. Often family is a good go-to for all things medical (see: hereditary conditions) but you can name anyone-and everyone- you’d like. Mom, Dad, Brother, Best Friend, Fifth Grade Teacher? If you love them enough to share your blood panel results, then a HIPAA waiver is no biggie.
If you wanna get fancy, you can also sign a FERPA waiver to let your trusted adult have access to your educational record. It’s the grown-up version of the school sending home your report card to show how smart you are. 🤓
These are your documents, so you can name any adult you want to act in case you can’t (or don’t want to). In most cases that’s a parent, but let’s be real. Not all parents are created equal. Sometimes your “trusted adult” is your aunt, your neighbor, or your cousin. Whoever you name, it should be someone you trust with your life and your 💵 bank account.
When you’re ready to start getting your adult shit together, feel free to book a call with us or shoot us a text. The cost for all of these documents together is $500 through our office, and I bet mom and/or dad would even be willing to foot the bill if you show them how responsible you’re being!
Estate planning offers legal protection for families and individuals through all of life’s transitions. Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives are the most common estate planning tools we use to help clients protect their wishes, safeguard their assets, and ensure provision and care for their loved ones following their death or incapacity.
What Does My Estate Plan Have to Do with My Divorce?
Your estate plan can be impacted greatly if it’s not updated after a divorce. For example, if your ex-spouse has been named as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, they may still be able to collect the proceeds if you suddenly pass away without updating your documents. Your ex-spouse may also retain authority roles as your power of attorney or healthcare agent unless you revoke such power. As a single adult, you must also name the people you now want to act on your behalf or manage your affairs in an emergency once the role is no longer filled by your ex-spouse.
Won’t a Divorce Automatically Stop My Ex-Spouse from Having Such Power?
While this topic has been introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly, no laws have been passed yet to prevent it. Although a divorce decree will remove your ex-spouse from inheriting under your will or serving as Personal Representative/Executor, it does not remove them from serving under other documents like your power of attorney or healthcare directive. And it doesn’t remove them from inheriting anything they receive as a beneficiary outside of probate such as life insurance, bank accounts, retirement accounts, or trust funds. That is why you must update your documents after a divorce to be certain that your ex no longer has this power.
What Documents Should I Update?
During your divorce, the law prevents you from making many changes to your financial situation or medical insurance. Once the decree is signed though, you will want to review and update the following documents:
Power of Attorney
Beneficiary Designations on Life Insurance Policies
Beneficiary Designations on Retirement Plans
Beneficiaries on any accounts with Payable on Death Provisions
Tennessee has laws that dictate when documents can be updated or altered as you move through the divorce proceedings. It’s important to speak with an experienced Davidson County will and trust lawyer before you make any changes, as any unapproved transfers or changes to your documents could be considered fraudulent. If you need help getting started, we are here to assist you with your planning. Contact our office by calling (615) 846–6201 or click here to schedule an appointment.
This website is an attorney advertisement. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with the viewer.