What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

 A Medical Power of Attorney is a legal instrument that allows you to select the person that you want to make healthcare decisions for you if and when you become unable to make them for yourself. The person you pick is representative for purposes of healthcare decision-making only, he/she should make decisions based on your personal values and wishes.

Whom Should I Choose to be my Health Care Agent?

You can pick a family member, but you do not have to. Your agent will have the responsibility to make medical treatment decisions, even if other people close to you might urge a different decision. The selection of your agent should be done carefully, as he or she will have ultimate decision-making authority for your treatment decisions once you are no longer able to voice your preferences. Choose a family member, friend, or other person who:

(i) is at least 18 years old;

 (ii) knows you well;

(iii) you trust to do what is best for you and is willing to carry out your wishes, even if he or she may not agree with your wishes;

(iv) would be comfortable talking with and questioning your physicians and other health care providers;

(v) would not be too upset to carry out your wishes if you became very sick; and

(vi) can be there for you when you need it and is willing to accept this important role.


What Healthcare Decisions are you Talking About?

If there is ever a period of time when your physician determines that you cannot make your own health care decisions, or if you do not want to make your own decisions, some of the decisions your agent could make are to:

(i) talk with physicians and other health care providers about your condition.

(ii) see medical records and approve who else can see them.

(iii) give permission for medical tests, medicines, surgery, or other treatments.

(iv) choose where you receive care and which physicians and others provide it.

(v) decide to accept, withdraw, or decline treatments designed to keep you alive if you are near death or not likely to recover. You may choose to include guidelines and/or restrictions to your agent’s authority.

(vi) agree or decline to donate your organs or your whole body if you have not already made this decision yourself. This could include donation for transplant, research, and/or education. You should let your agent know whether you are registered as     a donor in the First Person Consent registry maintained by the Illinois Secretary of State or whether you have agreed to donate your whole body for medical research and/or education.

(vii) decide what to do with your remains after you have died, if you have not already made plans.

(viii) talk with your other loved ones to help come to a decision (but your designated agent will have the final say over your other loved ones).

What are some of the Things I want my Health Care Agent to Know?

The selection of your agent should be considered carefully, as your agent will have the ultimate decision making authority once this document goes into effect, in most instances after you are no longer able to make your own decisions. While the goal is for your agent to make decisions in keeping with your preferences and in the majority of circumstances that is what happens, please know that the law does allow your agent to make decisions to direct or refuse health care interventions or withdraw treatment. Your agent will need to think about conversations you have had, your personality, and how you handled important health care issues in the past. Therefore, it is important to talk with your agent and your family about such things as:

(i) What is most important to you in your life?

(ii) How important is it to you to avoid pain and suffering?

(iii) If you had to choose, is it more important to you to live as long as possible, or to avoid prolonged suffering or disability?

(iv) Would you rather be at home or in a hospital for the last days or weeks of your life?

(v) Do you have religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs that you want your agent and others to consider?

(vi) Do you wish to make a significant contribution to medical science after your death through organ or whole body donation?

(vii) Do you have an existing advanced directive, such as a living will, that contains your specific wishes about health care that is only delaying your death? If you have another advance directive, make sure to     discuss with your agent the directive and the treatment decisions contained within that outline your preferences. Make sure that your agent agrees to honor the wishes expressed in your advance directive.

Why Choose EPM?

A few reasons you should consider choosing EPM include:

  1. Alignment of Values.  EPM is a Christian organization dedicated to helping individuals and organizations further their legacy planning through God honoring activities.  We believe that each of us has a moral duty to use the gifts God has given us to leave an impact on the world that lasts beyond our lifetime. EPM has resources available to help further this Kingdom-driven cause.
  2. Education: EPM offers a variety of free educational resources designed to help individuals take an active role in their estate planning. Our articles and frequently asked questions address a variety of issues and common concerns about estate planning and can help users decide what type of estate plan is best for them.
  3. ADAM: This advanced web-based platform allows users to select and create personalized legal estate planning documents. ADAM is an affordable alternative to expensive legal services or generic cut-and-paste form documents.

If you want to begin your estate planning yourself, EPM offers a simple, user-driven system you can use at your own pace.  If you use an attorney to create a legal estate plan - Great!  . . . but EPM should still play l an essential role your estate planning process. 

Who Is Good Sense Movement?

Good Sense Movement is an organization that does 3 things:

  1. Create resources and experiences for churches, ministries, organizations, and individuals to teach, train and support families in becoming responsible and God-honoring with their financial resources.
  2. Promote awareness within the Christian community regarding how easily money can become the rival god and impair a person’s relationship to the true God, as well as promote awareness for how freeing it is to align your finances with the grace and wisdom of God!
  3. Provide encouragement and training to Christian leaders as they establish stewardship ministries within their local communities.

For more information see: Good Sense Movement.

What is Estate Planning Ministry’s relationship with Good Sense Movement?

EPM is proud to be the first Stewardship Champion of Good Sense Movement.  For more information see: Good Sense Movement’s Stewardship Champions.

Good Sense and Estate Planning Ministry are completely separate and distinct legal entities, and Good Sense is not responsible or liable for any of the content on EPM’s website nor for any of the services provided through EPM.

Are Good Sense Movement and Estate Planning Ministry the same organization?

No.  EPM is a Stewardship Champion of Good Sense Movement.  Good Sense and Estate Planning Ministry are separate and distinct legal entities, and Good Sense is not responsible or liable for any of the content on EPM’s website nor for any of the services provided through EPM. For more information see: Good Sense Movement, Good Sense Movement’s Stewardship Champions, and EPM’s Terms of Use.

Can I Name an Alternative or a Back-up Representative in Addition to My First Choice?

Yes. You may name one or more “successor representatives” to fill this role if your first choice is unable, unwilling or disqualified to serve.

What Will Happen if I do not Choose a Health Care Agent?

If you become unable to make your own health care decisions and have not named an agent in writing, your physician and other health care providers will ask a family member, friend, or guardian to make decisions for you. In Illinois, a law directs which of these individuals will be consulted. In that law, each of these individuals is called a “surrogate”.  There are reasons why you may want to name an agent rather than rely on a surrogate:

(i) The person or people listed by this law may not be who you would want to make decisions for you.

(ii) Some family members or friends might not be able or willing to make decisions as you would want them to.

(iii) Family members and friends may disagree with one another about the best decisions.

(iv) Under some circumstances, a surrogate may not be able to make the same kinds of decisions that an agent can make.

What if there is no one Available Whom I Trust to be my Agent?

In this situation, it is especially important to talk to your physician and other health care providers and create written guidance about what you want or do not want, in case you are ever critically ill and cannot express your own wishes. You can complete a living will. You can also write your wishes down and/or discuss them with your physician or other health care provider and ask him or her to write it down in your chart. You might also want to use written or on-line resources to guide you through this process.

How is a Medical Power of Attorney Different from a Living Will?

A Living Will is a statement of decisions you made yourself. It tells the doctor that you do not want to be kept alive by machines, if there is no hope of getting better. A Medical Power of Attorney gives someone else the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. It is meant to deal with situations that you cannot predict. Because you cannot predict these situations, you cannot decide in advance what choice you would make. The Medical Power of Attorney allows you to pick the person that you trust to make to these kinds of decisions when you cannot make them yourself.

Do I Still Need a Living Will If I Have a Medical Power of Attorney?

Yes. Any decisions that you make in your Living Will must be followed by the person you name as your Medical Power of Attorney.

How will I know if I am able to Make Healthcare Decisions for Myself?

A doctor or psychologist (or in some states, an advance practice nurse working with a doctor) will make this determination. Commonly, the doctor will say that you lack the capacity to make healthcare decisions. He or she may also say that you are incapacitated. If you are conscious, you will be told that you have been found to be incapacitated and that your Medical Power of Attorney Representative will be making decisions regarding your treatment.

How Does the Doctor Decide that I am Unable to Make Medical Decisions for Myself?

The qualifying medical professional will evaluate your ability to:

    1. Appreciate the nature and implications of a health care decision; (Are you able understand what your doctor is telling you and understand the consequences of any choices that you make?) 

    2. Make an informed choice regarding the alternatives presented; (Are you able to  process the information the doctor gives you and make your decision based on this process?) and 

    3. Communicate that choice in an unambiguous manner. (Are you able to let your  doctor know what you have decided? You may state your choice, write it down, or in some case, just nod your head. The important thing here is that there must be no doubt about what your are trying to express.) 

If the doctor determines that you are unable to do these things, he or she must write this in your medical records. The doctor’s statement must include the reason why you were found to lack capacity.  

Does My Medical Power of Attorney Representative Have to Pay My Medical Bills?

No. A Medical Power of Attorney only gives the person you appoint authority to make healthcare related decisions. This does not include authority to pay your bills. For that you need a Durable Financial Power of Attorney.  It is entirely possible that the same person may hold both your Medical Power of Attorney and your Financial Power of Attorney. However, if this is not the case, your Medical Power of Attorney Representative has no financial authority.

What is the difference between a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney?

A Medical Power of Attorney gives a third party, acting as your agent, the authority to make certain health care decisions for you.  A Living Will contains your wishes specifically, and those decisions are not left up to the discretion of your agent.  Since a Living Will addresses life-sustaining medical treatments while you are still alive, such as if you become severely disabled or are placed on life support, some individuals wish to make these decisions ahead of time in a Living Will in order to save the individual’s family member from making the difficult choice.

When does Financial Power of Attorney End?

Unless you revoke it sooner, your financial power of attorney automatically ends at your death. That means that you can't give your agent authority to handle things after your death, such as paying your debts, making funeral or burial arrangements, or transferring your property to the people who inherit it.


If you want your agent to have authority to wind up your affairs after your death, use a will to name that person as your executor.


Your financial power of attorney also ends if:


  • You revoke it. As long as you are mentally competent, you can revoke a durable power of attorney at any time.


  • You get a divorce. In a handful of states, if your spouse is your agent and you divorce, your ex-spouse's authority is automatically terminated. In other states, if you want to end your ex-spouse's authority, you have to revoke your existing power of attorney. In any case, it is wise to make a new document as soon as you file for divorce.


  • A court invalidates your document. It's rare, but a court may declare your document invalid if it concludes that you were not mentally competent when you signed it, or that you were the victim of fraud or undue influence.


  • No agent is available. To avoid this problem, you can name an alternate agent in your document.