Health Care Proxy
As we’ve discussed, it’s important to create and maintain a legal document that details how you’d like your property to be distributed in the event of your passing. But what happens in situations where you are still alive, but unable to communicate your preferences with regard to your medical treatment? This is where a health care proxy is useful. Read on to learn more about what a health care proxy is and why you should have one.
Table of Contents
- What Is A Health Care Proxy?
- How Does A Health Care Proxy Differ From A Revocable Trust Ar A Will?
- Why Should You Have A Health Care Proxy?
- Who Should You Choose As Your Health Care Proxy?
What Is A Health Care Proxy?
A health care proxy is a legal document that allows you to grant power of attorney to a representative of your choosing. This person is given the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, if medical professionals determine that you are incapacitated in some way - for example, if an accident renders you unconscious or your mental facilities are diminished as a result of dementia or another illness.
A health care proxy can be created using a standard form (depending on the state in which you live); you can also ask a lawyer to draft one for you. In order to create a valid health care proxy, you must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind. It’s also advisable to designate two people as your proxies - one main person and an alternate - in case the main person you choose is unable to make decisions on your behalf if the situation arises.
How Does A Health Care Proxy Differ From A Revocable Trust Or A Will?
Unlike revocable trusts and wills, health care proxies are specific to medical decisions and do not include financial ones. In addition, revocable trusts allow for you to specify exactly what decisions should be made by medical professionals and caregivers in the event that you are physically or mentally incapacitated, whereas health care proxies allow for the person you designate to make those decisions on your behalf. As a result, revocable trusts and health care proxies are often used in tandem, in order to allow for every eventuality regarding your medical and financial affairs.
Why Should You Have A Health Care Proxy?
There are many reasons why having a health care proxy is a good idea. For one thing, it alleviates the stress that families face when having to make decisions about a loved one’s health. In addition, if members of your family have differing viewpoints with regard to medical care (for example, if you are opposed to life support and they are not), then having a proxy will ensure that your wishes will be respected when you cannot voice them yourself.
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Who Should You Choose As Your Health Care Proxy?
More often than not, people choose their spouse or domestic partner as their health care proxy. But anyone can serve as your representative, as long as the person is at least 18 years of age. Of course, you will need to conform with the person beforehand that they are willing to take on the role; some people may not feel comfortable with such an important responsibility, or may have religious reliefs that preclude them from making certain medical decisions. You will want to choose someone who is familiar with your thoughts and feelings regarding medical treatments and end-of-life care, and who is willing and able to speak on your behalf, even if what they say might not be popular with other members of your family.
While it may never need to be used, a health care proxy can provide you with the reassurance that, no matter what happens, you have a trusted advocate who will make the right decisions for you with regard to your medical care.
The information provided above is not meant to replace expert estate planning, tax, or financial advice. As you design your estate plan, please reach out to a qualified professional.
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