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The Challenges Of Medical Powers Of Attorney


Carol Salter

Having dealt with countless medical powers of attorney and the challenges that come with them, Carol Salter, a Notary at McKee
Medical Center in Loveland, Colorado, discusses her methods to keep them sound.

What are the major challenges to handling medical powers of attorney?
These documents allow a third party to make medical decisions on a signer’s behalf. A diligent Notary assesses the situation and does due diligence before notarizing. Has the signer been properly identified? Are they aware of what they are doing? Do they want to sign it? The document must be notarized with the utmost care and watchfulness.

What kind of issues do you encounter notarizing these documents?
I have often dealt with signers whose family members are trying to coerce them into signing something that they either don't understand or just don't want to sign. Also, working in a hospital, I deal with signers who are incapacitated in some way, either through physical ailment or medication.

How do you resolve the problems?
My policy, and every healthcare Notary’s policy, should be that my business is with the signer. I never let anyone else get in the way. I always talk to the signer directly to make sure they are willing and aware, and normally I ask everyone else to leave the room to prevent undue influence.

What do you do to protect yourself?
I always follow best practices as far as personal appearance and identifying the signer are concerned. Another important practice is to keep a journal whether your state requires it or not. That journal entry may be the one thing that protects you in a lawsuit if family members get angry with each other and decide to sue you over a patient signing a document.

Key points

  • Always screen for identification, willingness and awareness.
  • Don't allow family members or others to coerce the signer.
  • Ask any bystanders to leave the room when performing a notarization.
  • Always require personal appearance.
  • Keep a journal, whether your state requires it or not.

Additional resources

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.


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