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Protecting Family with Health Care Powers

If you want to be in the best medical health, it is important to be sure that you are in the best legal health. That is, that you have identified agents with complete legal authority to make decisions about the health care you need -- when you are unable to make the decision yourself.

The medical healthcare power of attorney identifies an agent, such as a trusted family member or friend, who can give consent to medical treatment if you cannot, such as consent for surgery or hospitalization. An alternate agent should also be listed in case your first agent cannot be reached. For example, if your spouse is your agent and both of you are in an accident, then an alternate agent is needed.

Different from other states, the Arizona statute also allows you to authorize your health care agent to make the decision about whether you are buried or cremated. Before this law, if you died without being married, then all of the members in your family could have input in how you were to be buried or cremated. If a person died without having family, then it could be difficult to have a mortuary carry out any burial or cremation. Thus, designating burial or cremation preferences in your health care power of attorney can now ease many problems for those who survive you.

Another difference from other states is the ability to have a mental healthcare power of attorney which helps avoid costly court intervention if you or someone you love suffers with a mental health care issue, such as mental illness, brain injury, stroke dementia or Alzheimer’s. In such cases, a common problem is when a patient refuses medication that is necessary for comfort and happiness. The mental healthcare agent and the doctors can insist on medication being taken and can have a person admitted to a psychiatric hospital unit until the medications are stabilized. This document avoids the need for court intervention for you to get the best health care possible.

If a person does not have these healthcare powers of attorney, then their loved ones, even a spouse, may need to seek court authority to be able to cover all health care needs. Court involvement requires two sets of attorneys, since the person needing the health care needs separate counsel. In addition, a court investigator must evaluate the person and a hearing is held in open court—in about 45 days after the request is made. Time, money and privacy are saved by appointing an agent through healthcare powers of attorney.

In addition to health care powers of attorney, there should be a power of attorney to appoint an agent to handle your finances and make sure your bills are paid while you are ill. In this way, you can be assured the best heath—both medical and legal.