Pennsylvania Estate Planning Topic of the Week: Health Care Representatives

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Under Pennsylvania Health Care Law (20 Pa CSA § 5461), a Health Care Representative has the authority to make any health care decisions on behalf of another, and also to exercise rights/powers regarding a person’s medical care, custody and health care treatments that the Principal could have made for himself or herself. In today’s blog, your Pennsylvania Estate Planning Lawyers answer the most common questions we get regarding health care representatives.

What can a health care representative do?

A Health Care Representative can make decisions when the Attending Physician determines the Principal is incompetent, and the Principal is at least 18 years old, has graduated high school, has married or is an emancipated minor, and the individual does not have a Health Care Power of Attorney or the Agent is unavailable and no guardian has been appointed.

Who can serve as a Health Care Representative?

A Health Care Provider cannot serve as a Health Care Representative unless that person is related to the Principal by blood or marriage. In order to designate a Health Care Representative, the Principal can specify a person that they would like to be their Health Care Representative. Otherwise, under Pennsylvania Law, the Principal’s Health Care Representative can be chosen by default, depending on the family members in the Principal’s life.

By default, a Health Care Representative is chosen in this order:

  • Spouse (and adult children if not children of the spouse)
  • Adult Children
  • Parent
  • Adult Sibling
  • Adult Grandchild
  • An adult that has knowledge of the individual’s preferences

What happens if there is a disagreement involving the authority of the Health Care Representative?

In the event that there is more than one person acting on behalf of a class that is assuming authority as a Health Care Representative, then a majority of that class must agree to make a decision on behalf of the Principal. If there is not a majority, then the disagreement sometimes has to be resolved via court action.

Questions about Health Care Representatives? Contact our Western PA Estate Planning Lawyers today to schedule a consultation and obtain more information.