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Who makes medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot?

No one can predict when a serious illness or injury will strike. A neighbor had a heart attack at 40 - she was fortunate to recognize the symptoms and get help. Another neighbor who just celebrated his 80th birthday is still recovering from a debilitating stroke.

Look around your neighborhood and there are probably several people who have suffered unexpected medical events. These can happen at any time, but risks increase as we age.

If you do not have a medical directive in place, loved ones may have to go through many hoops before they can make decisions on your behalf. In Colorado, the court must appoint a guardian, which takes time and can be costly.

Quality of life issues

One type of advance directive is a Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA). This document allows you to appoint another person (an "agent") to make medical treatment decisions when you cannot.

You may grant an agent as broad of authority as you deem necessary. This estate planning tool is broader often preferred to a Living Will for this reason. A release should inform medical providers to immediately share information with your agent so they can work together to determine whether you are incapacitated.

If you want to include specific instructions, this is a way to do so. These might be wishes about resuscitation or requests tied in with your religious beliefs.

Easy access and open communication

The Colorado Bar Association offers several more tips. Make sure the original MDPOA is easy to access. Do not store this document in a safe deposit at a bank that might be closed on holidays or weekends.

Have a candid conversation with the person you plan to appoint as agent or an alternate agent. Handing a file with your estate planning documents to an adult child or close friend is not enough. With medical treatment issues you need to tell family members, friends and medical providers that you have a MDPOA. These conversations are tough, but the only way others will know to follow your wishes.

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