What is a Medical Power of Attorney

February 22, 2024

There are a few different documents that you can consider putting in place to help address how healthcare decisions may be made on your behalf, including a medical power of attorney, advance directive, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization. A medical power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to make medical treatment decisions (“informed consent”) on your behalf if you are unable to do so. An advance directive (or “living will”) allows you to convey your acceptance or rejection of medical or surgical treatment as it relates to your end-of-life care. A HIPPA authorization lists the individuals that are allowed access to your “protected health information” that could be necessary in order to act on your behalf, or on behalf of your estate or trust. Your healthcare decisions may be addressed by each of these documents separately, or may be combined into one or more documents.

Smiling women in hospital bed and blue hospital gown laying on a hopsital bed and holding hands with her husband

Benefits of Having a Medical Power of Attorney

If you become incapacitated (either mentally or physically) and are no longer able to make medical decisions for yourself, your Agent may immediately step into your shoes, without court involvement, and make important medical decisions that you would have been able to make if you were not incapacitated. Without a medical power of attorney in place, a guardianship may need to be established by a court proceeding, which can be an expensive and lengthy process. Having documents in place to address healthcare decisions can minimize potential conflict amongst family members that may not agree on medical decisions or decisions regarding your care.

Important Considerations

  • Who should be in charge of making medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated? Consider naming a trusted friend or family member as your Agent – otherwise, a court may appoint someone to make medical decisions for you that might not be your first choice.
  • Discuss your wishes and values with your Agent and the people that matter most to you – it is important that they know what kind of care you would want in certain situations.
  • Be sure that your healthcare providers and Agent have copies of documents related to your healthcare, such as your medical power of attorney and/or advance directive. These documents should be easily accessible in the event of an emergency.
  • If you have a Revocable Living Trust, consider including HIPAA provisions in your trust agreement to give your trustee the ability to access certain protected health information that may be necessary to administer your trust.

Next Steps

Preparing documents to address healthcare decisions is just one step in putting together a complete estate plan. You should also consider putting in place a will and/or revocable trust, a financial power of attorney, and funeral or memorial instructions. If your estate planning documents are several years old, or if your situation has changed, you should speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to assist you with the preparation or review of these documents.

Your Estate Plan

Have you reviewed your estate plan recently? If not, changes in your life, your family, and in tax law may make this an excellent time to meet with one of our trust and wealth planning professionals. We will discuss your goals and concerns, provide you tools to support your decision making, and help identify areas where changes may be appropriate. We will also discuss how First Western Trust may assist your family as your Trustee or Personal Representative.

About First Western

In 2002, Scott Wylie, an entrepreneur and banker, led a group of Western business leaders to create an organization that provides individuals with high levels of sophistication and personalized boutique service. The result of this effort is the first Western-based private bank – First Western Trust.

We believe that each of our clients shares our entrepreneurial spirit and values our sophisticated, high-touch wealth management services. We offer a trusted advisor platform with an established approach to investment management through a branded network of private boutique offices.

To learn more, visit us online at www.myfw.com.


Investment and insurance products and services are not a deposit, are not FDIC insured, are not insured by any federal government agency, are not guaranteed by the bank, and may go down in value. This information is not legal, investment, accounting or tax advice and is for informational purposes only. Readers should not rely on this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining legal, accounting or tax advice from their own counsel. Information is current as of August 21, 2023 and is subject to change without notice.


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