Arizona living wills and health care powers of attorney are legal documents that allow people to articulate their wishes. Although these two directives may seem mutually exclusive, they can actually work in tandem.
Health Care Power of Attorney
An Arizona health care power of attorney can be the broadest health care directive permitted under Arizona law. It can allow an adult to absolutely designate one or more other adult individuals to independently make health care decisions on that adult's behalf or to provide funeral and disposition arrangements in the event of the person's death or it can give specific instructions. Moreover, this includes not only treatment decisions, but decisions about the medical personnel and medical facilities at which a person should be treated.
Arizona law requires that a health care power of attorney be: 1) written, 2) dated, 3) signed, and 4) notarized or witnessed by at least one adult who affirms that the notary or witness was present when the person dated and signed or marked the health care power of attorney and that the person appeared to be of sound mind and free from duress at the time of execution of the health care power of attorney. ARS § 36-3221.
The notary or witness shall not be any of the following: 1) A person designated to make medical decisions on the principal's behalf, 2) A person directly involved with the provision of health care to the principal at the time the health care power of attorney is executed. If a health care power of attorney is witnessed by only one person, that person may not be related to the principal by blood, marriage or adoption and may not be entitled to any part of the principal's estate by will or by operation of law at the time that the power of attorney is executed. ARS § 36-3221.
An Arizona living will can either exist by itself or as part of a health care power of attorney. It specifies those end-of-life actions a person would and would not like taken on his/her behalf. The situations and actions listed in a living will may range from very general to very specific.
If a living will is part of a health care power of attorney, it need only be in writing and need not comply with additional execution formalities. If it is not part of a health care power of attorney, however, its execution must satisfy the same execution requirements as a health care power of attorney. ARS § 36-3261.
The Arizona statutes are somewhat unclear as to whether a health care provider can act independently under a living will that only exists as part of a health care power of attorney, or whether the attorney-in-fact must issue the directives set forth therein. Therefore, to avoid this possible limitation, we suggest that a living will be executed as a separate document, even if its terms are contained in a health care power of attorney.
Out of State Validity
A health care directive prepared before September 30, 1992, or prepared in another state, district or territory of the United States is valid in Ariozna if it was valid in the place where and at the time when it was adopted and only to the extent that it does not conflict with the criminal laws of Arizona. ARS § 36-3208.
If there are conflicts among the provisions of valid health care directives, the most recent directive is deemed to represent the wishes of the patient. ARS § 36-3209.
This brief overview of some important considerations associated with living wills and healthcare powers of attorney is by no means comprehensive. Always seek the advice of a competent professional when making important financial and legal decisions.