The final post in my DIY documents series is on powers of attorney for healthcare. Although a number of documents are available online for low cost and possibly for free, the State of Illinois actually provides these documents in the statutory law itself, in the Illinois Power of Attorney Act.
These were intended so that Illinois citizens could literally copy and paste the short form from the law code to a Word document, follow the instructions, and you have a quick power of attorney for property or healthcare [these links are to the ISBA website, and contain forms not drafted or reviewed by me].
Now, the statutory forms are in fact effective vehicles for carrying out your not-quite-final wishes, but they do have limitations.
Follow me on a journey from Illinois to the fictional 51st state of Cuba. Horse rancher Kendra has lived in Illinois all her life. One day she got hit by the wrong end of the horse, right in the kidney, and passed out, waking in the ICU in a near-coma. Her only living relatives, her elderly brother Jason and her cousins Tom and Jim, convinced her to fill out the two short forms, so he could take care of her horse ranch business for her, as well as make decisions about medical procedures. Glancing it over briefly, Kendra plugged in her cousin’s two names and signed the forms, as well as a form will they found online. About a week prior to this, Cuba had just officially entered the Union as our 51st state, which in part had been due to their excellent new artificial kidney center.
So Kendra, wanting the best care there was, decided to pay for the airlift service to take her to Cuba for a new robotic kidney. She arrived and was put under for the operation, but (as you guessed) life-threatening complications arose, where Kendra needed a major operation, but could not sign the forms herself.
Although Jason was in Illinois in a cellphone deadzone, Tom was there, and handed over the power of attorney for healthcare. The hospital refused to accept it, noting that the state laws of Cuba do not accept forms with co-agents (neither does Illinois), nor a healthcare form without a notary (Illinois does not require a notary for this form). They began trying to reach Jason instead, not recognizing a cousin as a valid next in line.
So Tom decided to call Jim, and the two figured that a bribe would solve the problem. Jim went to the bank to empty out Kendra’s savings account. He turned over the power of attorney for property. The bank manager gave it right back, saying that it could not accept a form designating co-agents, and furthermore, there was no notary signature on the form (which Illinois requires for this form).
Tom and Jim were stuck, and Kendra passed away, because the doctor could not reach Jason in time, and there was no alternative to the procedure in place. Whereas a good attorney would have instantly known about these issues and drafted a unique power of attorney document(s) with proper signatures and authorities, valid for Illinois and advising the client not to try to use this form in a place that uses different laws about powers of attorney.
Tom and Jim did not use an attorney for executing the will either, and both got sued by Jason and lost, because they took risks such as these. Don’t be like Tom and Jim; contact an attorney (like myself) if you are thinking about end-of-life documents, to make sure your final wishes are fully and properly prepared.
DISCLAIMER: Please do not use links to prepare your own forms without consulting an attorney first to see if these are appropriate for your situation. I make no representations or guarantees as to the applicaiblity of these forms to your situation. This blog is ADVERTISING MATERIAL only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice, especially if you are not an Illinois resident. Please contact me if you have a legal question or concern, as no attorney-client agreement will exist between myself and any readers of this blog unless it is signed in writing.