Many residents of Nevada may be concerned about the health care decisions that would be made on their behalf if they were to become incapacitated by illness or injury. A living will communicates the health care wishes of an individual, but a health care power of attorney actually designates another person to make these important decisions. This person could be authorized to stipulate the forms of treatment to be employed and when the decision would be made to withhold treatment.
The person granting the authority is referred to as the principal, and the person authorized to make health care decisions is known as the agent. The principal must be at least 18 years of age and in sound mind for the document to be legally binding, and the signature on the document should be notarized or witnessed by two people. Once it has been established, the document could remain in effect permanently, or it may have a specified end date.
Choosing an agent is an important decision, and a trusted relative or friend is often called upon to shoulder these responsibilities. However, many individuals choose to specify an attorney to act as their agent or successor agent; this is an individual named in the health care power of attorney to act on the principal’s behalf if the agent is unable or unwilling to serve.
While knowing that important medical decisions will be made in a particular way can bring peace of mind, protecting loved ones from being responsible for these decisions is also an important consideration. An attorney with estate planning experience could explain the ways in which documents such as a health care power of attorney, a living will or a last will and testament could help to avoid family conflict while ensuring that an individual’s wishes are followed.
Source: Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, “Who will make your health care decisions when you can’t?”, September 26, 2014