Posted by:  Heinz Brisske

On May 30, 2014, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation amending the Illinois Power of Attorney Act. That amendment affects the Illinois Statutory Power of Attorney for Health Care, replacing the form in effect since the last amendment of the Act, which was effective July 1, 2011. This is an attempt to make Health Care Powers of Attorney more accessible to the general public by simplifying the language of the Power of Attorney and expanding the accompanying explanation directed at the person signing the form. In fact, the explanation is longer than the form itself.

The Principal (the person signing the Power of Attorney form) is now given only two options concerning life-sustaining treatment, where the existing form gives the Principal three options. The proposed law also indicates that any writing signed by the Principal can be used as a Power of Attorney for Health Care, as long as it is signed by the Principal, and even if it is not witnessed.

Whether this amendment will actually accomplish its objective of convincing more people to execute a Power of Attorney for Health Care remains to be seen. Though the language of the document is simplified, it may result in more confusion than edification. The reaction of members of the Estate Planning and Elder Law bar range from skeptical to outraged. One prominent Elder Law attorney bluntly indicated that she plans to “continue use of the4 existing HCPOA form, as the new legislation says their form does not have to be used.”

There will undoubtedly be more written on this topic as attorneys and others have time to analyze the language of the amendment.