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6 Things Every Iowan Should Know About Health Care Power of Attorney

Let’s set everything straight about all the benefits and important aspects of a health care power of attorney.

  1. What is a health care power of attorney?

A health care power of attorney (“POA”) is a legal instrument that allows you to select the person (called an “agent”) that you want to make health care decisions for you if and when you become unable to make such decisions for yourself. The person you choose is your agent for purposes of health care decision-making.

  1. What types of health care decisions can be covered by a healthcare POA?

A health care POA can govern any kind of decision that is related to your health that you want to address. A health care POA may include decisions related to organ donation, hospitalization, treatment in a nursing home, home health care, psychiatric treatment, and more.

For example, if you don’t want to be kept alive with machines, you can make this clear in your POA for health care. But keep in mind your POA for healthcare isn’t just about end-of-life decisions – again, it can cover any medical situation.

  1. When would I use a healthcare POA?

A health care POA is used when you become unable to make health care decisions for yourself. Your agent will then be able to make decisions for you based on the information you provided in your health care POA. Equally important, your agent will be access your medical records, communicate with your health care providers, and so on.

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  1. What happens if I don’t have a healthcare POA?

If don’t have a health care POA, and you should become disabled to the point where you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself, well, the hospital will do everythingeverything possible—to save your life.

Your family, without guidance from you, will be faced with agonizing decisions. Your family members may not be able to agree on how to handle your medical care. Or, you might disagree with the decision your family ultimately makes.

If your family can’t agree on a course of action, they would have to go to an Iowa Court and have a conservator/guardian appointed for you. It may, or may not, be someone you would have chosen. Further, the conservator/guardian may make decisions you wouldn’t have made.

This is all very complicated, time consuming, and expensive, especially compared with the convenience of simply having a healthcare POA in place. A health care POA gives you control over how decisions are made for you, and the agent you choose will carry out your wishes.

  1. Is there a “one-size-fits-all” POA for healthcare?

No! All Iowans are special and unique and have special and unique issues and concerns. Consequently, this article is presented for informational purposes only, not as legal advice. Consult your lawyer for personal advice.

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  1. Do I need other estate planning documents in addition to a healthcare POA?

Yes, definitely. (It’s even essential for students in college!)  There are six “must have” estate planning documents that make up a complete, comprehensive estate plan. (Plus some people may also need to consider a trust.)

Do you have a health care POA currently? And do you have an overall estate plan? Why or why not? I’d be most interested in any thoughts or comments. Email me anytime at

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