A California (CA) medical power of attorney (MPOA) is a legal document that allows someone else to make your medical decisions for you. It will be effective on the date (or event) you specify in the document, but the most common situation is that it takes effect when you can no longer make medical decisions yourself.
A medical power of attorney, also known as a power of attorney for health care, is a type of advance directive.
Laws: California Probate Code Section 4680-4691 governs medical powers of attorney in California.
If you’re considering creating an MPOA, look into whether the following legal documents might benefit you.
California (Financial) Power of Attorney: This legal document allows someone else to take care of your financial affairs for you, either right away or if you become incapacitated and can no longer make your own financial decisions.
How to Fill in a Medical Power of Attorney in California
Laws regarding powers of attorney for health care are covered in Sections 4680 to 4691 of the California Probate Code.
Step 1: Choose an agent
An agent is a person that you designate to make health care decisions on your behalf. In California, you are also allowed to name an alternative agent. This person can make medical decisions for you if your first named agent is unable or unwilling to act as your medical power of attorney.
Who should you choose as an agent?
Choosing the right person to be an agent takes some time and consideration. You should pick someone you trust and someone who knows you well. This person should make medical decisions based on your desires and opinions, not based on their personal beliefs.
Your agent should be at least 18 years old and mentally and physically capable of making decisions for you.
Relevant law: Section 4684 of the California Probate Code
Who can’t be your agent?
In California, your agent cannot be the following individuals:
- Your supervising health care provider
- An operator of a community care facility or residential care facility
- The employee of a health care institution where you are receiving care, unless the employee is a relative, spouse, domestic partner, or coworker
Can you have more than one agent?
You cannot name more than one agent to act at the same time. However, you can name alternative agents that will take over if your first choice is unavailable to serve as your health care power of attorney.
Step 2: Specify what healthcare decisions your agent can make
You should specifically set out which decisions are you are permitting your agent to make.
Can you limit your agent’s powers?
Yes. Your agent can have as much or as little power over your healthcare decisions as you would like. As part of the California medical power of attorney form, you can specifically state which healthcare decisions you would like your agent to NOT have, rather than create a list of what they can do.
What is your agent legally unable to do?
Your agent can only make healthcare decisions for you. They cannot make other decisions, such as about finances, unless you have another document, like a financial power of attorney, that deals with those decisions.
Your agent is also limited by the list of items that you specifically state that they cannot decide for you.
In addition, your agent also cannot make decisions regarding:
- Placement in a mental health treatment facility
- Convulsive treatment (such as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT)
When can your agent start making decisions for you?
Your agent can either start making decisions for you immediately if that is what you would like (and you must say so on your designation). Otherwise, your agent can make decisions for you as soon as a doctor or another medical professional determines that you are not competent to make your own decisions.
Step 3: Sign the form
You are required to sign the medical power of attorney form to make it legally effective. You must sign it in front of witnesses, as noted below.
Do you need a notary or witness signatures?
Yes, you are required to have two witnesses see you sign the form and sign as well. All parties must sign in front of a notary as well.
If you are a patient in a skilled nursing facility, you also need the signature of a patient advocate or ombudsman.
Who can’t be a witness?
Your witnesses cannot be any of the following:
- Any agent that you designate in your medical power of attorney or advance directive (including alternates)
- Your healthcare provider
- An operator of a community healthcare facility or residential care facility where you are receiving care
- An employee of a community or residential care facility where you receive care
- A relative (blood, marriage, or adoption)
- Anyone that would be entitled to any part of your estate upon your death
How long is your California medical power of attorney effective?
Your medical power of attorney will remain in effect indefinitely unless you revoke it.
How to Revoke a California Power of Attorney
You can revoke your California MPOA at any time. You can revoke the designation of an agent using a signed writing (that is, a revocation of power of attorney), or you can cancel it by personally informing your health care provider. To revoke, you must have mental capacity.
You can also revoke all or part of a health care directive, except for the designated agent, at any time and in any manner of communication.
Relevant law: Sections 4695 to 4698 of the California Probate Code