We all have wishes regarding our medical care, but what happens if you’re in a position where you’re not able to express these desires? This is where a health care proxy comes into play. Here is everything you need to know about what they do and how to select one.
WHAT IS A HEALTH CARE PROXY?
A health care proxy is an individual who will carry out your health wishes if you are unable to speak for yourself at the time of an ailment or injury. Some of the decisions that they may be required to make include, but are not limited to:
- Authorizing treatments
- Approving extraordinary measures
- Ending life support
- Organ donation
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A PROXY?
Chances are, a proxy will need to make several important decisions in a short amount of time. You will want to select someone is cool under pressure and can fully understand the ramifications of the decisions they are making. They will need to work closely with your medical team and any other members of your family but will also prioritize your wishes.
HOW DO I NAME A PROXY?
A health care proxy will be included as part of your estate plan. An attorney would write up the forms and then they would need to be signed in front of witnesses and then be notarized. You can complete this at a courthouse, your financial institution, government offices, etc. During this process, you should make your proxy aware of your wishes and give them a copy of your information.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ONE?
If you don’t have a health care proxy in place, one will most likely be assigned to you. The spouse or partner will usually be the first choice, followed by a child over 18, a parent, and then a sibling. While these are all good options for the most part, it’s still a good idea to ask someone to take on this role so they will be able to follow your pre-determined wishes.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PROXY AND POWER OF ATTORNEY?
While both of these positions make decisions for people who are unable to speak for themselves, a health proxy focuses primarily on health decisions while power of attorney makes financial decisions. You should not select the same person to handle both of these tasks as there may be a conflict of interest.
Disclaimer: This guide is meant to be a helpful starting point and not as legal advice. As every situation is different, speak to a financial professional or attorney before beginning your estate planning.