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Iowa Durable Power of Attorney Laws

A durable power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes someone as an agent or “attorney-in-fact” to make decisions or take action for another person. One type is a financial durable power of attorney that allows your agent to do things like pay your rent or collect payments for leasing farmland on your behalf. Another is a durable power of attorney for health care that allows the agent to make health care decisions for you when you’re unable to make them, in the judgment of your attending physician.

Healthcare power of attorneys are often created with living wills as part of estate planning documents. Living wills are advance health care directives that explicitly state your desires for life-sustaining treatment or not if you’re incapacitated, for example, are in a coma for a certain period of time and are unexpected to recover. For more information on living wills, see the Iowa Living Wills article.

The following table outlines the main parts of the Iowa durable power of attorney for healthcare laws.

Code Section Iowa Code Chapter 144B – Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
Legal Requirements for a Valid Power of Attorney To create a valid durable power of attorney for health care in Iowa, you must:
  1. Explicitly authorize the attorney-in-fact to make health care decisions, you can use the sample form in Section 144B.5 or one that is substantially similar
  2. Include the date of creating the document
  3. Have two adult witnesses sign the document in the presence of each other and you (witnesses can’t be your health care provider or the attorney-in-fact, at least one can’t be related to you, and both must be over 18) OR notarize the document
Specific Powers and Life-Prolonging Acts A health care agent has the power to consent to, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to health care for the person who appointed him or her as the attorney-in-fact. An attorney-in-fact has priority over a court-appointed guardian to make health care decisions.

If the patient’s wishes as to life-support are unknown, the attorney-in-fact has a duty to act in his or her best interest, taking into account the overall medical condition and prognosis. However, the power to refuse consent doesn’t apply to providing nutrition or hydration except when required through intubation or intravenous means.
Revocation of Durable Power of Attorney A durable power of attorney can be revoked in several different ways:
  • At any time in any manner the creator of the document is able to communicate the intent to revoke, such as in writing or orally to the health care agent himself or herself or to the health care provider
  • Creating a new valid power of attorney revokes any prior power of attorney
  • Divorce automatically revokes a former spouse who’s designated as durable power of attorney for health care (also a great reason to always put an alternate or second-choice health care agent or decision maker)
Validity of Out-of-State Durable Power of Attorneys Similar documents created in another state in compliance with the laws of that state are valid and enforceable in Iowa, to the extent that the document is consistent with Iowa law.
If Physician Unwilling to Follow Durable Power of Attorney If a doctor is unwilling to do what the attorney-in-fact decides is best for the patient, after medical advisement (such as remove life support), then the doctor must transfer the patient to a willing health care provider.
Immunity for Attending Physician Health care providers aren’t subject to criminal prosecution, civil liability, or professional disciplinary action if acting in good faith on the decision of an attorney-in-fact.

You can create your own durable power of attorney for health care decision making on your own by using various online sample forms. However, to make sure that your power of attorney is valid in Iowa, you should consult with an experienced Iowa estate planning lawyer.

Note: State laws are revised regularly, you should verify these health care laws by conducting your own legal research or asking a lawyer.

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