One important document in any estate plan is a healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA). What do these documents look like in South Carolina? What do you need to prepare this document?

What is the purpose of a HPOA?

When you file a HPOA, you authorize a capable adult to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are injured, incapacitated or die. This can include an advanced medical directive. Appropriate medical decisions could include:

  • Medical procedures such as surgery.
  • Medical attention due to shock or brain injury.
  • Medical intervention to prolong life.
  • Wishes for treatment of your body, especially if there are any religious concerns.

You can add documentation to address concerns around mental illness or a desire for a natural death. Those documents (often included in a larger will) give your agent more direction about your final wishes.

What do you need to prepare to sign an HPOA?

HPOAs are not necessarily complicated. A legal advisor can help you prepare your documents, but you can start to plan your HPOA beforehand. A great start is to choose your HPOA agent. This should be a friend or family member that you trust to make serious decisions for your wellbeing.

You must notarize your HPOA and related forms otherwise they are not legal documents. This will require a notary and two witnesses. A legal advisor can help you assign witnesses. Those witnesses cannot be any of the following:

  • The HPOA agent.
  • A member of your family.
  • A beneficiary.
  • A minor.
  • A person of unsound mind.
  • Your physician or your attending health care worker.

If you would like to add personal notes to your HPOA, be sure these notes do not unintentionally limit your agent’s powers. If you would like to change or revoke your HPOA, you can do so. You can also authorize someone to do this on your behalf.

Keep in mind that a HPOA is a powerful document, but it is not all-powerful. Most agents cannot access a person’s mental health records, HIV/AIDS status or other sensitive documents. Additionally, in South Carolina an agent’s powers are significantly limited if the injured person is pregnant.

HPOAs are useful, significant documents that help your loved ones execute your wishes in an emergency. If you file one under a legal advisor, they ensure that the document is legally valid where “free” online documents might not be. A legally invalid document could put your timely medical treatment at risk.