Have you ever thought about what would happen if you become incapacitated and needed medical care? A health care proxy is an important estate planning tool that helps inform your appointed proxy of your wishes regarding medical care and gives them authority to direct medical decisions.
There are a few facts everyone should know about health care proxies.
1. A health care proxy is different from your power of attorney
Some people mistakenly believe that a power of attorney is sufficient and they do not need a separate health care proxy. The two forms are different. Power of attorney allows someone to make financial decisions, but it has no bearing on medical care and decisions. The health care proxy addresses your medical care wishes.
2. You need several copies of your health care proxy
Once you complete it, the health care proxy is only enforceable if you deliver it to those who need it. Provide copies to everyone on your medical care team and any new doctor you visit. Distribute copies to family members and loved ones, especially those you appoint as responsible for your care. Finally, provide a copy to your attorney as part of your estate plan.
3. Sooner is best when creating a health care proxy
Technically, everyone over the age of 18 should have a health care proxy. When you reach the point that you consider estate planning, prioritize ensuring a health care proxy is included in your plan.
4. A health care proxy protects your voice
Skipping the health care proxy means you might receive medical treatments you would otherwise refuse, or have someone making medical decisions for you that you would not want to be in that role. When you want a say in your medical care even after incapacitation, a health care proxy is the most effective means to do so.