Difference between Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy

Published on August 5, 2016

Durable power of attorney and health care proxy are both legal documents used for designating an “agent” to take care of certain responsibilities. However there are subtle differences between the two that are worth checking out.

Definitions

Durable Power of Attorney vs Health Care Proxy

Before we start talking about what a durable power of attorney is, it’s good to know what a power of attorney means. Also known as a letter of attorney, a power of attorney is meant to authorize someone to act on somebody else’s behalf. This could be in private matters, business dealings, or legal matters.

If a grantor (person authorizing another) dies or is no longer capable of assigning a person to act on their behalf, a power of attorney will no longer be in effect. A durable power of attorney is designed to make sure the power of attorney remains in effect should the grantor become incapable of making legal decisions. This “incapacity” may be caused by either physical or mental illness. Once in effect, the grantor will still be able to make decisions until the incapacity sets in.

Many people put this into effect even without the signs of any illness to anticipate a time when sickness or injury does come. This extends the power of attorney until the grantor’s death.

A health care proxy is one of two types of durable powers of attorney created for the purpose of carrying out medical treatment.
In a situation where a patient is unconscious or in a mental state where the ability to make a legal decision is no longer possible, a person may be granted the authority to make medical decisions in accordance to what the patient wants. This authority is called a health care proxy. Similar to living wills, a health care proxy can either be statutory or standard. Also, a lawyer can draft a health care proxy specifically for the patient.

In most cases, a single individual is appointed as an agent rather than several people acting at the same time. Several agents may be appointed in case the first one is unable to carry out the health care proxy. The patient can continue to make health care decisions even if the health care proxy is already in effect. A health care proxy is also sometimes called a health care power of attorney.

Durable Power of Attorney vs Health Care Proxy

What is the difference between a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, then?

A durable power of attorney is designed to extend a power of attorney in the event that the grantor is no longer capable of choosing a person to act on their behalf regarding private, business, or legal matters. It’s a type of power of attorney that ends when the grantor dies. On the other hand, a health care proxy is a variation of the durable power of attorney. It is designed to make sure that a suitable person can make medical decisions on behalf of a patient who is physically and mentally incapable of making medical decisions. A health care proxy is also a way for a patient to ensure that any medical decisions will be made according to what they want.

Comparison chart

Durable Power of AttorneyHealth Care Proxy
A type of power of attorneyA type of durable power of attorney
Designed to make sure the power of attorney remains in effect should the grantor become incapable of making legal decisionsDesigned to appoint a person to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient when they no longer can

Video

Here is a video that further explains the difference.