When you are putting together an estate plan, one aspect of that plan should be your advance directive. An advance directive has two legal documents within it, your health care proxy and your living will.
A health care proxy is important because it determines who will make decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so yourself. Your health care proxy may also be called a durable medical power of attorney, health care surrogate or appointment of a health care agent.
Many people believe that they need to be ill before they establish an agent, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, establishing an agent early on is important, so that they can be there to make decisions for you if you cannot due to being incapacitated in some way.
Why do you need to choose a trustworthy medical power of attorney?
The person you choose as your medical power of attorney will make medical treatment decisions on your behalf when you cannot do so yourself. It is vital that they understand your wishes and are willing to make sure those wishes are carried out. If you would like someone to be your agent but they disagree with your plans for treatment, then it is probably better to appoint another person.
Your health care agent needs to be an assertive individual and someone who understands treatment options. They should be informed about your wishes now, so that they know what you’d want if they ever had to make a decision for you.
The medical power of attorney does need to be at least 18 years old.
What does the medical power of attorney do?
The medical power of attorney handles medical treatment decisions such as selecting palliative care, deciding whether to provide artificial hydration or other life-sustaining care and how to honor your religious beliefs. By setting up a living will, you’ll be able to tell them exactly what you want, and they will have a document to refer back to.
Setting up a health care agent is essential, so it’s worth doing as soon as possible. Select someone trustworthy and who will be there for you in an emergency.