A medical power of attorney form is a legal document that is used to name another person to make medical decisions for you. The person that you designate will make decisions regarding your health, well-being, and medical treatment when you are unable to make those choices yourself or immediately, whichever you choose.
In Illinois, a medical power of attorney is also commonly referred to as a “health care agency” or an “Illinois power of attorney for health care.”
Laws: The Illinois Power of Attorney Act, 755 ILCS 45, Article IV, governs powers of attorney for health care.
If you are considering using an Illinois medical power of attorney form to create a power of attorney for health care, you might also want to review the following documents.
- Living Will: A living will provides specific instructions on what your wishes may be for medical care. It goes beyond the medical power of attorney form to address very specific desires related to care and treatment if you become incapacitated. It is also sometimes referred to as an advance directive for health care.
- Illinois (Financial) Power of Attorney: This form addresses the financial aspects of your life. It designates another person to make decisions regarding your assets, debts, and other property. It can be as broad or as limited as you would like. You do not have to name the same person for both of these types of powers of attorney in Illinois.
How to Fill in a Medical Power of Attorney in Illinois
The Illinois Power of Attorney Act provides specific instructions to create a valid power of attorney for health care. You can use the following steps to help you fill out the form.
Step 1: Chose an agent
The agent that you choose will have the power to make medical decisions on your behalf. They should have your wishes and beliefs in mind when making these decisions. They should also be able to set aside their own opinions or ideas about what you should do, so they can decide what you would do in that situation.
This role can be challenging to fill, so be sure that you put some very serious thought into who would be a good fit for your medical power of attorney.
Who should you choose as an agent?
Under Illinois law, your agent must be at least 18 years of age. They should also have sufficient mental capacity to act on your behalf, but those are the only requirements for an agent under Illinois law.
Many people choose to name their spouse, a close friend, or another relative as their medical power of attorney. With a few limitations, you can choose whoever will make the most sense for your unique situation.
Who can’t be your agent?
A health care agent in Illinois cannot be:
- Your attending physician
- Any health care provider or health care professional that is overseeing your care
As long as your agent meets the basic legal requirements and does not involve your health care team, you can name that person.
Can you have more than one agent?
You can name successor agents on your Illinois medical power of attorney form. A successor agent will make medical decisions on your behalf if your designated agent is unable or unwilling to make your medical decisions for you.
Only one person at a time can serve as your agent, but you can name several successor agents if you would like.
Relevant law: 755 ILCS 45/4-5
Step 2: Specify what healthcare decisions your agent can make
Your durable medical power of attorney can be as broad or as limited as you would like. However, the Illinois medical power of attorney form specifically sets out that your agent will be able to act on your behalf with regard to all medical decisions unless they are specifically limited.
Can you limit your agent’s powers?
Yes. You should expressly state which powers you do not want your agent to have.
The powers in the Illinois medial power of attorney form are designed to be broad, so you will need to include a precise description of the decisions that you do not want your agent to make if you’re going to limit that power.
What is your agent legally unable to do?
Illinois law does not have any specific limitations on which decisions a health care agent cannot make with regard to physical health. However, there may be limitations regarding care as it relates to mental health in some circumstances.
When can your agent start making decisions for you?
An agent can start making decisions for you immediately if you set out that is your wish. It is much more common, however, that the agent will start making decisions only after a medical professional declares that you are not competent to make your own medical decisions any longer.
Relevant law: 755 ILCS 45/4-7
Step 3: Sign the form
You are required to sign the medical power of attorney form to make it effective under Illinois law.
Do you need witnesses or notary signatures?
Illinois law requires that you have a witness sign the form to state that they saw you sign the document and that they believe the signature is yours. There is no notary requirement.
Who can’t be a witness?
Witnesses must be at least 18 years of age. They also cannot:
- Be the agent or successor agent named in the medical power of attorney for health care
- Be related to you, the agent, or any successor agents by blood, marriage, or adoption
- Be your physician, registered nurse, dentist, podiatric physician, optometrist, psychologist, or a relative of any of those individuals
- Be an owner or operator of a health care facility where you receive care or live
How long is your Illinois Medical Power of Attorney Effective?
Your medical power of attorney will remain in place until you revoke it or until all of your directives have been carried out, even if your directives apply to your body’s after-life treatment.
Relevant law: 755 ILCS 45/4-5.1
How to Revoke an Illinois Medical Power of Attorney
If you change your mind about your power of attorney for health care for any reason, you can revoke it by destroying your medical power of attorney documents or creating a revocation of power of attorney. You can also tell any person who is over the age of 18 that you intend to cancel the document. You can also fill out a new form, but a new form is not required to revoke the old form.
Relevant law: 755 ILCS 45/4-6