Email FacebookTwitterMenu burgerClose thin

How Does a Medical Power of Attorney Work in Texas?


A medical power of attorney is a document that allows Texans to designate someone they trust to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become unable to make those decisions themselves. Medical powers of attorney are important parts of long-term financial, medical and estate planning. Laws in other states also provide for medical powers of attorney that generally work similarly to medical powers of attorney in Texas. However, there may be differences that could affect outcomes and Texas does not recognize all medical powers of attorney from other states. The reverse is also true. Understanding how these legal instruments function can empower residents to put an effective plan in place. Consult a financial advisor to optimize all aspects of your financial plan.

Medical Power of Attorney Basics

A medical power of attorney, also called a healthcare power of attorney or durable power of attorney for health care, authorizes another person to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated. Typically, this includes choosing doctors, consenting to treatments, admitting to care facilities and following advance directives. It generally aims to ensure that any decisions that are made concerning your care align with your preferences and interests.

You designate an agent to make these decisions for you. People often name spouses, children or parents, but there are no restrictions on who can be your agent. Some advice warns against selecting someone who works for a healthcare provider who cares for you, or someone already named as your guardian or conservator. You can name alternate agents if the first choice cannot serve.

The power of attorney goes into effect when a doctor certifies in writing that you lack capacity to make your own health choices. At that point, your agent can access medical records and consult with providers to inform decision-making. The appointment stands until you revoke it or, if the document sets an expiration date.

In Texas, creating a valid medical power of attorney requires having it signed and witnessed. Two competent adults must sign to verify your signature, or you must have it notarized. Certain people, like family members and healthcare staff treating you, cannot serve as witnesses.

Using Texas Medical Power of Attorney

Medical powers of attorney authorize healthcare agents to make nearly any decision the principal themselves could. In Texas, this excludes voluntary inpatient mental health treatment or any psychotherapy, electroshock procedures, abortion, assisted suicide or anything limiting comfort care. With those exceptions, decisions often involve major choices about life support, surgery, medication and more.

The goal is for agents to follow the principal’s instructions and align with their values. Without explicit guidance, they must determine what they believe the principal would want. There are legal provisions to shelter healthcare agents from liability for their decisions if they have acted in good faith.

Powers activate only when doctors certify the principal’s incapacity, and they end when and if competency returns. Principals can revoke authorization at any time by notifying their provider or agent.

Medical Power of Attorney Limitations

A senior couple signing a medical power of attorney in Texas.

Medical powers of attorney differ from living wills, which in Texas are called directives to physicians. Living wills document specific instructions about medical interventions ahead of time. If both a medical power of attorney and a directive to physician exist, the most recently executed document overrides the older one.

Because other states have different rules for healthcare directives, Texans should check whether their Texas medical power of attorney will be compatible with laws elsewhere before they relocate out of the state. While Texas recognizes other states’ medical powers when consistent with local statutes, the instruments might not fully apply. Consulting with a qualified attorney may be the best way to be sure that a medical power of attorney from another state is effective in Texas, and vice versa.

There is no fee or other cost to prepare and execute a medical power of attorney and paying an attorney to help, while useful in some situations, is not essential for this task. The cost of providing any healthcare is the responsibility of the patient, regardless of who consents. That means choices made by the agent named in the medical power of attorney will have an impact on the principal’s finances.

Bottom Line

A senior reviewing a medical power of attorney with a financial advisor in Texas.

Medical powers of attorney enable Texans to pre-select trusted advocates to speak for them if illness or injury prevents their own medical decision-making. Understanding the logistics around how these instruments work, including setup, use cases and limitations, helps residents proactively put effective plans in place. Texas medical powers of attorney work much like similar documents in other states, but some differences may exist.

Financial Tips for Residents in Texas

  • Speaking with a financial advisor can help you determine if a medical power of attorney should be part of your financial preparations. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • SmartAsset’s Texas paycheck calculator can figure your take-home from a salaried or hourly job after all taxes are taken out.

Photo credit: ©iStock/shapecharge, ©iStock/SrdjanPav, ©iStock/