Marriage and Health Care Power of Attorney: Deciding Your Future Care

Making sure that you and your spouse’s wishes regarding future health care are respected is one of the most important decisions to make. 

Married couples can use a health care power of attorney to make sure that their loved ones receive the care they need.

A health care power of attorney lets you have full control of your future care should you become disabled or incapacitated. It lets someone else carry out decisions you’ve made in advance on your behalf.

Planning Your Future Health Care Needs 

In a marriage, a health care power of attorney can give your spouse the legal authority to make decisions, and the document establishes what your spouse can or cannot do.

End of life care, life support, and other factors must be considered when a person becomes incapacitated for any reason. 

Using a health care power of attorney document gives another person the authority to carry out decisions related to the need for hospitalization, medical treatments, and in-home care.

A health care power of attorney can include decisions to refuse certain procedures or treatment types. It’s a “durable” document, which means it stays in effect even after you’ve become disabled or incapacitated.

Giving an Agent the Authority to Decide on Your Future Health Care

The person who you authorize to carry out your wishes outlined in your health care power of attorney, your agent, is required to abide by your terms. They may not act against your wishes at any point.

Choosing an agent is an important part of the process, as this person will express your wishes on your behalf when facing decisions related to surgery, the medication you receive, or any life-sustaining treatments.

Your agent can access medical records and disclose them to other parties when necessary. They can decide when you should be admitted to a facility such as a nursing home or hospital while having the authority to establish agreements for health care services.

An agent can make decisions after your death. This can keep family members from having to make difficult decisions about organ donations, autopsies, funeral services, and other post-death procedures. 

Creating a Valid Health Care Power of Attorney

In order for your health care power of attorney to be valid, it must be in writing and signed by you and at least two other witnesses.  Health care professionals involved in your care may not act as your agent.

There are standard forms used to create a health care power of attorney. But the process can be complex, and having an attorney who can guide you will ensure that you create a legal document that offers the full protection you and your spouse need.

You can revoke your power of attorney at any time before you become disabled or incapacitated.

Marriage and divorce can impact the validity of your power of attorney. Getting married may revoke an agreement that authorizes someone other than your spouse to be your agent.

Similarly, when married couples divorce, it can revoke the spouse as the agent. However, you can specify how these and other actions are carried out in the event of a marriage or divorce.

Consulting with an attorney can help you ensure that your power of attorney complies with state laws and clearly establishes your wishes. It can give you and your spouse the full protection you need and the peace of mind in knowing you’ll get the care you need.