Who has authority to make medical or financial decisions if no power of attorney has been assigned?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad went into Cardiac Arrest and is on a ventilator. To my knowledge, being as though I'm his only child, do I have say in what goes on financially and medically or can his brother take over and make decisions without discussing it with me? Neither one of us has POA over my father.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Your situation underscores the importance of having a signed power of attorney or advance directive in place and the confusion and hurt that can occur without one. But you know that—and the best we may be able to do is take a lesson for ourselves and be prepared.

Medical authorities are supposed to consult close family members for advice and direction if there is no advance directive in place. Both you and your uncle would qualify as “close family members.”

The reality is often that the doctors will listen first and most to the family member who is the most assertive. And some hospitals even have a policy of dealing with only one family member for help in directing medical care decisions. While it may not feel fair to have such important decisions turn on personality quirks, that is often the truth of the matter.

Try reasoning with your uncle, emphasizing how important you feel it is to be consulted and included. If your plea falls on deaf ears, consult the hospital’s patient representative or ombudsperson, who should be able to intervene or help reach a more suitable arrangement.