Many Virginia residents are concerned about whether family members and medical professionals will respect their end-of-life decisions. While most individuals hope to remain lucid and able to engage in care decisions even when seriously ill or injured, there are situations in which patients are unable to communicate their wishes regarding medical treatment.

Fortunately, there are ways that an estate owner can help ensure that their wishes are respected at this sensitive time. Many attorneys will encourage clients to include end-of-life planning along with their estate plans. Specifically, individuals can provide a trusted loved one with medical power of attorney.

A power of attorney allows somebody to make decisions on behalf of another person who is no longer competent to do so. Power of attorney is not absolute; powers can be rescinded and can be limited. For example, someone with a medical power of attorney would not be able to make financial decisions unless they have been given financial powers as well.

When giving someone medical power of attorney, it is important for the estate planner to describe how he or she wishes end-of-life and pain control issues to be handled. With this information, the agent with power of attorney can direct medical professionals appropriately.

It is also important for the estate planner to let other friends and family members know who has medical power of attorney and why this person was selected. Open communication can prevent unpleasant surprises and hard feelings at what may be a very emotional time.

Individuals who are considering end-of-life planning may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney. A lawyer may be able to review the client’s circumstances and make recommendations regarding creating and updating an estate plan.