What is a "health care power of attorney?"

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone you choose the power to act in your place. A health care power of attorney is different from a living will, because it names one or more persons to make medical decisions for the signer in the event of incapacity. While the living will gives instructions about care choices, the health care power of attorney empowers an individual to sign consents, discuss health care issues with the care team, secure second medical opinions, and similar actions.  In case you ever become mentally incapacitated, you'll need what are known as "durable" powers of attorney for medical care and finances. A durable power of attorney simply means that the document stays in effect if you become incapacitated and unable to handle matters on your own. (Ordinary, or "nondurable," powers of attorney automatically end if the person who makes them loses mental capacity.)

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