A medical power of attorney appoints an agent to act on your behalf. For most people, this agent is a direct relative, such as a child. This person can then make decisions when you are not able to do so.

For instance, you may suffer a stroke and go into a coma. Doctors need to do surgery right away, but the type of surgery they want to do is very risky. They also need to keep you on life support.

Clearly, you cannot make these decisions on your own. Would you want the surgery, or would you want to hope you recover without it? Do you want life support to be used? Since you cannot decide, the agent gets to make those choices.

But what if you do recover? Your legal power to make decisions is taken from you when the power of attorney kicks in. Do you get it back if you come out of the coma and show that you can make your own choices once again?

You do. The agent is only allowed to act on your behalf as long as you cannot. You do not have to worry about giving this power up indefinitely. If you wake up, the doctors will once again defer to you and the agent’s power over those choices ends.

Powers of attorney are very important. You cannot always predict how things are going to go and what medical care you’ll need. You must have someone you trust ready to work for you when you need it most. Make sure you know how to set this up and what legal steps to take.