Selecting Your Health Care Proxy

Presented by Wilson & Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law LLC

Designate a Trusted Individual to Manage Your Medical Decisions

When you establish a durable power of attorney for health care through Wilson & Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law LLC, your paramount task is determining who will act as your health care proxy – also known as a health care agent, surrogate, or attorney-in-fact, depending on your jurisdiction.

Typically, individuals designate their spouse, partner, a family member, or a dear friend to fulfill this role. The key element is unwavering trust in this person – and the comfort level needed to have frank discussions about your health care preferences. Your health care proxy doesn't need to endorse every one of your choices, but they must honor and advocate for the type of care you desire.

The Role of a Health Care Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney for health care legally empowers someone to make health-related decisions on your behalf if you're incapacitated. This critical document comes by various names – such as Appointment of Health Care Proxy or Designation of Health Care Surrogate – but its function remains consistent.

Essential Attributes for Your Health Care Representative

Consider whether the individual you have in mind is assertive. It's possible that they'll need to navigate obstinate medical systems or challenge family members whose intentions may not align with your own. If contentious situations are foreseeable, your agent should possess the resolve and confidence to champion your health care preferences.

Location also matters. It's beneficial if your proxy resides within a reasonable distance, especially during extended illnesses, to ensure your medical team adheres to your stipulated health care directives.

Assess if your health care agent will manage your financial matters as well. Creating a financial power of attorney can simplify matters by appointing the same individual for both roles, barring potential conflicts and coordination issues.

Conversely, if opting for different agents for each aspect, they must communicate effectively. Avoid conflicts such as your financial agent hindering your health care plans through reluctance or refusal to pay related bills.

Steer Clear of Appointing Your Health Care Provider

In nearly all instances, your attending doctor or staff members at your treatment facility should not double as your health care agent. Many state laws explicitly prohibit such arrangements. Though there may be exceptions for relatives or same-institution employees, it's prudent to verify with Wilson & Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law LLC to understand your state's regulations.

Legal Limitations on Selecting Health Care Proxies

Be aware that your state may impose legal constraints on who may act as your health care agent, with the intent to eliminate potential conflicts of interest or biases.

Appointing Multiple Agents: Proceed with Caution

Legally, while you can designate multiple health care proxies, we advise appointing a sole agent when drafting your health care power of attorney. Sharing such responsibility can lead to disputes, potentially stalling your care deliberations or, worse, landing the matter in court.

If excluding someone might cause upset, engage in candid discussions to explain your choices. Alternatively, consider having those you trust pick the primary agent amongst themselves, with you having final approval.

The Importance of an Alternate Health Care Agent

It's wise to appoint one or more alternates in the event your primary agent is unavailable or resigns subsequent to your health care power of attorney becoming active. Exercise the same deliberate selection process for your alternates to ensure your wishes are upheld.

The Consequences of Not Naming a Health Care Agent

If there's no one you can confidently entrust with your medical care oversight, it's better not to appoint an agent. Nevertheless, you should create a living will to express any specific health care desires. Medical professionals are obligated to observe your documented wishes or seek individuals willing to provide care according to your instructions.

If you choose not to appoint a health care agent, be certain to discuss your medical preferences with a physician or hospital staff member likely to be involved in your care.

If you are ready to make these important decisions or have more questions about choosing a health care proxy, Wilson & Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law LLC is here to assist. We offer a Consultation to help you plan thoughtfully for your future. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us at (708) 482-7090 to arrange a discussion.

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