Why a Health Care Proxy? Estate Planning AttorneysELiopoulos & Eliopoulos, PC, Chelmsford MA

Life can be unpredictable, but what happens after life shouldn’t be. Keep reading to learn about the importance of a health care proxy.

Have you heard the expression expect the best and prepare for the worst? We can live our lives optimistically but we need to be prepared for what could happen in the event of a serious medical condition.
Part of planning for your future is ensuring you have a health care proxy. A health care proxy identifies a family member or friend that can make medical decisions for you if for some reason you are unable to do so. Needless to say, it’s an important decision.
As you plan for your future, consider a health care proxy. It makes thing easier for your family or loved ones as well as lawyers and medical professionals.
Need more information? Keep reading for a complete guide to a health care proxy.

What Is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy, or health care power of attorney, is a person that you decide will make medical decisions for you if you cannot. Typically, this is a person you are close with and trust to do what is in your best interest.
If you have an accident or suddenly become ill, your health care proxy will communicate with doctors and potentially estate planning attorneys about the health care options. The health care proxy may have to decide whether you undergo surgery or in serious cases when to end life support.
Your health care proxy does not need to have any law experience or medical experience. They need to be able to make decisions that you think would be in your best interest.

How to Decide on a Health Care Proxy

You hope you never need a health care proxy. But by the time you do, it’s too late to choose one. It’s never too early to start thinking about choosing a health care proxy.

Here are a few guidelines on deciding who your health care proxy should be.

1. They Should Know You Well

Your health care proxy should know almost everything about you. They should know your general medical history, your allergies, and your views on end of life care.
Pick someone that has known you for a long time and that you believe would make a responsible decision on your behalf.

2. They Should Be Reliable

Your health care proxy should always be one phone call away. So you may not want to choose your best friend that frequently travels abroad to remote places without cell phone service.
Pick someone that has shown they can be trusted and are a reliable resource when you need them

3. They Should Be of a Certain Age

A health care proxy must be 18 years or older. If you have a child under 18 that you wish to be your health care proxy, you can designate someone now and change your health care proxy when he or she turns 18.
You may also consider avoiding an elderly parent or friend as your health care proxy in the event that they are not well or no longer living.
It is also a good idea to identify an alternate in the event your primary agent is unavailable when the need arises.

4. Willing and Able to Help

Your health care proxy should be willing and able to make decisions on your behalf. Some people may feel too overwhelmed at the idea of being a health care power of attorney.
If you know who you want your health care proxy to be, talk to them first. Make sure that they are prepared for the responsibility and willing to accept the role.

What Can a Health Care Proxy Do?

Now you have a better idea of what a health care proxy is and how to choose one. But what can your health proxy do exactly?
Your health care proxy makes decisions regarding your medical care such as psychiatric treatment, surgery, or medications. They may also choose which doctors care for you. They can also decide lifestyle choices such as what you eat and who bathes you.
In some cases, your health care proxy may have to decide where you live. They can also decide whether home health care is the best choice given the specific circumstances. Generally speaking, a health care proxy can make any decisions that the individual would have made if they were able.

What Can’t a Health Proxy Do?

The health care proxy has a broad list of responsibilities, but there are still some things that they do not have the legal power to do. First, they cannot change a will. If you have already created a will with your attorney, it cannot be adjusted by the health care proxy.
A health care proxy also cannot make decisions after a person’s death. Once a person dies, the executor of their will has those responsibilities. You can make your health care proxy the executor of your will too.
Your health care power of attorney cannot transfer their responsibilities to someone else unless there is a designated co-health care proxy or alternate.

How to Assign a Health Care Proxy

If you are ready to choose a health care proxy, talk to that person first. Ask them if they are willing and able to accept the responsibility and explain what it entails. Once you have confirmation from your proxy, set up an appointment with a qualified attorney in estate planning.
They will record the information on your health care proxy and walk you through any questions you may have. If you want to change your health care proxy at any time, you can contact your attorney.

Plan Ahead – Choose a Health Care Proxy Today

While the thought of a serious or sudden medical issue is scary, it can happen especially in the world in which we find ourselves. And you want to be as prepared as possible to help your loved ones decide what to do on your behalf.
Consider the advice above when choosing your health care proxy. Speak to an attorney about your health care proxy choice as well as any other relevant end of life care choices.
If you are ready to choose your proxy or have questions, contact us for a free consultation.

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