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What is a health care power of attorney? Do you need one?

When many people hear the phrase "health care power of attorney," confusion immediately sets in. People don't know what it is, if they need it,or how it could improve their estate plan.

Here's what you need to know — if you become incapacitated for any reason, such as an injury or illness, a health care power of attorney can go into effect to ensure that your medical care preferences are followed at all times.

With a health care power of attorney, you can grant another person the legal right to make medical decisions on your behalf. Since this is such a big responsibility, it's important that you think long and hard about who you name.

When creating a health care power of attorney, it's essential to understand that something bad could happen to you in the future. Don't go through this process with the idea that what you include will never come into play. This may not be the case.

For example, if you are injured in a serious car accident, your agent may have to step in and make decisions regarding the type of treatment you receive.

There is no law stating that you have to create a health care power of attorney, but it can go a long way in giving you peace of mind. It doesn't have anything to do with your assets and where they end up upon your death, but it's still a big part of any estate plan.

As you create a health care power of attorney, focus on the legalities of this document and the directions you include.

Source: FindLaw, "Health Care Power of Attorney," accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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