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What is a medical power of attorney?

Estate planning means planning for the future, and you need to go beyond simply writing a will. One of the documents you may want to consider is a medical power of attorney.

What does it do? Essentially, this document chooses someone else to act as an agent on your behalf if you need medical care and you cannot communicate with the doctors. They get to make your choices for you. The document gives them legal permission to do so.

For instance, if you get into a car accident with serious injuries, doctors may put you into a medically-induced coma. If you have a stroke, you could lose the ability to communicate when your brain can no longer make those connections.

Ideally, none of that will happen, but you can't count on it. You're better off to have a medical power of attorney that you never need to use than to fail to make one and have your family left feeling unsure of what they should do.

Remember, without it, family members may not agree on what steps to take. What type of care do you want? What types of procedures are you against? If they have to decide if they should turn off life support, who gets to make that call? These are big, emotional decisions. Doctors need a clear answer, and the medical power of attorney tells them who has the power to make the choice and who they should listen to. It also gives you the peace of mind of knowing that the person of your choosing will make these decisions on your behalf, in the way you would have if you were able to.

Again, this is just one part of an estate plan, but it helps to show you just how many options you have to consider.

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