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Healthcare proxies explained

Adulthood comes with decision-making. There comes a time in one's life when they are unable to make financial decisions or important medical ones for themselves. While many think this can only happen in old age, when an elderly person begins to slow down cognitively, this is not always the case-a sudden car accident can leave accident victims unable to make essential end-of-life decisions. In these instances, it is possible to create a power of attorney that delegates the power to make financial and medical decisions to someone else. In Pennsylvania, it is possible to combine a healthcare power of attorney with a living will in a healthcare proxy.

Many people often end up creating two separate legal documents rather than one document covering both these aspects. This leaves a person with an agent designated for their financial decisions and one agent designated under the healthcare proxy. But it is important to understand how their relationship will intersect with one another.

Healthcare proxies, though commonly associated with end-of-life decisions, can also be used to make other medical decisions, such as consenting to surgery or choosing a rehabilitation facility. These decisions can have significant financial consequences and if it is not covered by insurance, it would be necessary to involve the financial power of attorney. This means the agent would have to access the principal's finances to pay for it and he or she could even object to the costs associated with the procedure.

It can be possible to allocate the same agent in both the documents and this could avoid all potential conflict, but it is important to understand the consequences of this decision and to speak to everyone involved, making them understand their roles. Ensuring the drafting is accurate is integral to making the document legally sound. An experienced attorney can be very helpful in providing guidance at this time.


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