Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most powerful. One of those is a short document called a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, which is simple to fill out but can have a powerful impact on your health, your life, how and when you die.
The state of Illinois provides a form for the public here? However, many people prefer to create a personalized document that expressed their desires with more clarity (always speak with an attorney if creating your own document).
Even a simple form can raise complex questions.
Some of the more common questions are listed below.
Remember, this information is informational, and does not provide specific advice for your specific situation. Consult an attorney if you have questions.
I filled out a prior or different version of this form – do I need to redo this?
No, your prior form is still valid IF the information have put on the form are still valid; meaning you have not changed your designated agents, have not your wishes that are written down and do not wish to make any substantive changes. Finally, you must not have revoked your prior form.
Must I use this form or can I create my own?
The form provided by the state is written to be easy to understand and fill out by non-lawyers. While the form is simple, your situation might not be and you are giving someone else the power to make fundamental decisions that impact your body, health and life. Understanding the consequences of the document are key, and many people will want to consult with an attorney. Many attorneys have revised the state form to reflect common concerns.
What are some reasons someone might want to have an attorney draft their own form.
It is impossible to detail all the reasons here, but one concern I have as an attorney is the broad disclosure powers granted to your agent, including the ability to discuss your mental health history. For more on that, see my article on this topic.
I also have a (winter home, lakehouse, ski condo) in another state. Will they accept this Illiinois form in the other state?
Each state generates its own rules on what constitutes a valid Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Some will accept it, some will consider it evidence of your preference but will not consider it legally binding, some may disregard it altogether. If you spend a lot of time in another state, check with that state’s laws.
I already have a Power of Attorney, so do I need another form for Healthcare Power of Attorney?
Yes, you do. These forms are similar in that they both authorize a person to act on your behalf, but cover different acts and powers. Reduced to overly simple terms, you give the Power of Attorney control of your checkbook and bills, while a Power of Attorney for Healthcare is given control of your body and health treatment.
Can I use the same person for my Power of Attorney and my Power of Attorney for Healthcare?
Yes, many people do just that. It can be easier and more efficient, especially if that person knows you well and has earned your trust. However, there are also many good reasons not to nominate the same person for both roles. For example, you may have a sibling you trust implicitly with your money but because of different religious beliefs, they could not follow your directions for healthcare. Or the spouse announces in advance they just couldn’t handle the pressure to decide.
I don’t know who to choose, any guidelines?
The person you choose should be the person that understands what your desires are regarding your own healthcare and will advocate and act as you would do if you were able. The role of the person you choose is not to do what they think is best, but to make sure what you want is expressed to the doctors and healthcare professionals. They must be over 18 years of age, they should not be your doctor or healthcare provider, legal guardian or the spouse of any of these.
Can I name all three of my kids as agents so they can all have a say?
This is really not a good idea, and the form does not permit you to do this. You want to appoint one person who is THE person the doctors, medical staff and others can go to for guidance. Adding more people is confusing, creates more work for the doctors, and can create conflict if the agents don’t agree. You can appoint them as successor and you can make it clear you hope and expect your primary agent to consult with other family members but clarify that only the primary agent makes the decision.
Some other key points:
• inform the agent that you want to designate them for this role. Be prepared for some people to say “no” for many reasons.
• Choose at least one, preferably two, backup agents. For example, spouses may both be in the same auto accident.
• Inform the person what you are putting on the form for your choices but equally important, discuss with this person what your wishes are so that they know how you think on medical issues.
I know I should fill out the form but I don’t feel ready to make these decisions.
Okay, this is not legal advice, this is life advice. Make it a point to decide. Talk to your doctor, read articles and be informed. Life won’t wait for you to be ready. Sooner or later most of us will be in this position. Do yourself and your family a favor and figure this out.
The ABA Provides some guides on what to discuss and go over with your agent that can be found here: