In the last post, we discussed how a durable power of attorney allows another person to act on your behalf, especially at a time when you may be incapacitated. A health care proxy document plays the same role for medical care – if you’re unable to make informed medical decisions, your health care proxy grants that authority to someone else. As a result, a health care proxy is one of the most important estate planning documents everyone should have.
A health care proxy only becomes effective when the attending physician has determined you are unable to make informed decisions about your medical care. At that time, your proxy will become authorized to make decisions on your behalf. You can, however, limit your proxy’s authority by specifying that certain care should, or should not, be administered in specific situations. You can amend or withdraw the health care proxy at any time, unless a court has determined that you are incompetent to do so.
If you become incapacitated, and do not have a health care proxy in place, the hospital or your family may be forced to ask the Probate Court to impose a guardianship, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process. A simple and easily completed health care proxy can help avoid this situation.
In addition to a health care proxy, you should also consider completing a medical directive, which will outline specific medical situations and provide guidance to your proxy regarding what your wishes are for each situation.
If you have questions about health care proxies, durable powers of attorney, or any other estate planning issues, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-570-3170.