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Topic: Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare


By Milton Babirak, JD, LLM      |      Babirak Carr, PC     |     Sterling, VA

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare?

A durable power of attorney for healthcare is a commonly used estate planning document in which you appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions for you if you become physically or mentally disabled. If you do not have this document and if you become disabled, your family or friends may have to go through an expensive and time consuming court proceeding to have a guardian appointed for you.



This document is very powerful because you typically give broad authority to your agent to make all of your healthcare decisions. Usually, this document is a form document but the Virginia Uniform Durable Powers of Attorney Act allows you to customize it in almost any way you want. For some people who have a family history of a specific illness or for the elderly, the ability to customize their document is very important.


Appointing an Agent; How Many and What Skills

You should pick one person to be your agent. You should also pick a successor agent in case the first agent cannot do it or predeceases you. Sometimes people want to pick more than one person, such as two or more children. This is a recipe for family disharmony. If they cannot agree, they would have to go to court.  Further, this document involves very personal choices and you should identify an agent who knows your personal wishes. If the agent you selected has healthcare experience, that’s pretty helpful. Try to select someone close by, if possible. The statistics indicate that this is not a long-term job, so the age of the agent is less relevant.


Adding a Declaration

Quite frequently, a declarative provision is added to a durable power for healthcare or a separate declaration is prepared which supplement a durable power. It is a provision or separate document declaring that the person signing the document does not want any heroic or extraordinary measures to be taken to save their life in case they have a terminal medical condition. The provision or document commonly specifies that pain medication, food and water may be administered and should not be withheld. Since this is a declaration, no agent need be identified for this.

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