If you do not have a medical power of attorney in place as part of your estate plan, you may have heard of this legal document before. In Oklahoma, a medical power of attorney gives you the ability to designate someone — your spouse, one of your children, a trusted friend, virtually anyone you want — to handle your medical bills and talk to your doctors for you if you are ever left mentally incompetent due to severe illness or injury.
At least, that used to be true. Then, on Nov. 1, 2021, Oklahoma law changed. From now on, nobody can create a medical power of attorney in the state. In its place is a document called the universal power of attorney, which does not allow you to designate a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions on your behalf.
Unfortunately, people in Norman will continue to get badly ill and sick to the point that they cannot communicate with their doctors. So what do you do now to prepare for that possibility?
A potential substitution
First, the new law is not retroactive. If you already established a medical power of attorney before Nov. 1, 2021, it is still in effect. If you did not, you can still create an advance directive. This document also lets you designate a proxy for deciding whether to continue life-sustaining treatment like a ventilator or feeding tube. This does not do the same thing as the medical power of attorney used to, but it is an essential function that every estate plan should include.
The law is constantly evolving
As you can see, Oklahoma’s estate planning and probate laws are always changing. If you are creating your plan from scratch, you need to know what the law is and how it applies to your individual needs.