The Health Care Power of Attorney
By Rick Law, Senior advocate at the Estate Planning Center at Law Elder Law in West Suburban Chicago, IL There are several limitations that Illinois has put on health-care agencies. For example, neither the attending physician nor any other health-care provider may act as agent under a health-care power of attorney. Other forms of powers of attorney may be chosen by the principal to provide powers and protection similar to a statutory short-form power of attorney for health care. A health-care power of attorney in Illinois requires a signing and a witness to that signing. The purpose of the power of attorney is to give your designated agent broad powers to make health-care decisions for you, including the power to require, consent to, or withdraw from treatment for any physical or mental condition and to admit or discharge you from any hospital, home, or other institution. You (the “principal”) may name successor agents under this version of power-of-attorney, but not co-agents. It is important to note that this form does not impose a duty upon the agent to make such health-care decisions, so it is important to select an agent who will agree to make those decisions as the principal would wish. Any agent who is acting for you has a duty to act in good faith for the principal’s benefit and to use due care, competence, and diligence. Your agent must also act in accordance with the law and with the statements in the power of attorney form. Your agent is also required to keep a record of all significant actions taken as agent. Unless you specifically limits the period of time that the power of attorney will be in effect, the agent may exercise the powers throughout your lifetime, even after you become disabled. A court can take away the powers of the agent if the court finds that the agent is not acting properly. A power of attorney for health care can be revoked at any time, without regard to your mental or physical condition, by any of the following methods:
- by being obliterated, burnt, torn, or otherwise destroyed or defaced in a manner indicating intention to revoke;
- by a written revocation of the document signed and dated by the principal or person acting at the direction of the principal; or
- by an oral or any other expression of the intent to revoke the document in the presence of a witness 18 years of age or older who signs and dates a writing confirming that such expression of intent was made.