Securing your future: Who will be your health care agent?
You probably have your computer information backed up, but do you have a backup for you, yourself? If you were to lose the ability to make decisions for yourself, would you have someone in place that could pick up the pieces? New York’s Health Care Proxy Law gives you the ability to appoint someone you trust to make crucial health care decisions for you in the event that you were to become unable to make important health-related decisions on your own. This legal tool ensures that health care providers will follow your exact wishes in cases where you are unable to express or communicate your desires.
The following scenarios are two situations where a health care proxy could be especially helpful:
- When you become permanently incapable of making your own health care decisions: If you were left in a permanent vegetative state as a result of an accident or illness, or if you suffered from a condition that made communication impossible, it would be impossible to make important health care decisions. Without a health care proxy, you would receive medical treatment; however, you would not have any control over what that treatment is. With an agent, you could have someone relay your exact desires to health care providers. This person would only authorize treatment consistent with your wishes.
- When you are temporarily unable to make health care decisions (regardless of your age): For example, you might undergo a surgical procedure and be under general anesthesia. If something unexpected were to happen, decisions might need to be made. A health care proxy could make the necessary choices according to your directions while you are temporarily unavailable. The minute you became competent to make such decisions, the agent would no longer have power to choose.
With a proxy, medical care providers will have to follow your proxy’s decisions. On the other hand, you can limit the agent’s authority to specific situations if you desire. Furthermore, you should provide your agent with detailed directions, called living will provisions. These instructions from you can save your family significant heartache and distress if dire circumstances arise.
If you do not have a valid health care proxy and power of attorney in place, you may have to have a guardian appointed for you in court. This is an expensive and intrusive process for your family to go through, and you have no control over who will be appointed to make vital decisions for you.
An important piece of estate planning is having a health care agent. At any age, but especially as you get older, life may take unexpected turns. It is better to be proactive before issues arrive, and be able to control your own destiny. While making decisions about future medical situations can be a bit overwhelming, a seasoned estate planning and elder law attorney can help you choose an agent, clarify your wishes and coordinate your plans. To learn more, take the time to speak with a qualified legal professional in your area. An attorney can help ensure that your future is sound and settled.