A healthcare proxy is an important part of a comprehensive estate plan. It allows an individual, the principal, to appoint someone they trust, known as the agent, to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become unable to make such decisions for themselves. In New York, there are specific rules and guidelines that govern how a healthcare proxy must be set up and what it should include.
When deciding on a healthcare proxy as part of an estate plan, the principal should consider these important elements.
Identify the agent
An essential element of the healthcare proxy is identifying the agent. The principal should select someone they trust and who understands their wishes regarding medical treatment.
The healthcare proxy should detail the medical decisions that the agent can make. This may include decisions about specific treatments, end-of-life care or do-not-resuscitate orders.
Outline the scope of authority
The document should define the scope of the agent’s authority. It should indicate when the authority begins, usually when the principal is unable to make medical decisions, and it should state if there are any decisions the agent is not permitted to make.
List an alternate agent
Consider naming an alternate agent in case the primary agent is unable or unwilling to act when needed. This will ensure that there is always someone available to make healthcare decisions if required.
In New York, two adult witnesses must sign the healthcare proxy who confirm that the principal appears to be of sound mind and is not under duress to appoint the agent.
Update as needed
Regularly review and update the healthcare proxy as necessary. Changes in health, personal relationships or wishes can all necessitate an update to the document.
A well-prepared healthcare proxy can ensure that the principal maintains control over their healthcare decisions.