When planning for the future, unforeseen circumstances play a key role in the preparations. Your estate plan should address incapacitation as well as death. One important element of that plan is your health care proxy. This document details your wishes for medical decisions when you cannot make those decisions yourself.
A comprehensive health care proxy includes a few key components.
Your health care proxy must identify both you and your designated proxy. Include your full name, date of birth and any other relevant details that prove your identity. When you name your health care proxy, state their name, contact information and relationship to you. The more information you include, the easier it is to identify them when necessary.
Detail your preferences for specific medical treatments and procedures. Illustrate your wishes for resuscitation, tube feeding, mechanical ventilation and organ donation. Include details of any circumstances that apply to any of your preferences. You should also specify if you want to prioritize comfort and pain management over life-sustaining measures in the face of diminished life quality. End-of-life decisions can also be documented in a living will.
If you have preferences for any end-of-life care, including palliative care or hospice, you may wish to list those wishes in your health care proxy. Alternatively, your health care proxy can state that your proxy can carry out end-of-life care decisions in accordance with your wishes as they otherwise know.
Many states, including New York, require witness signatures on a health care proxy. Make sure you have witnesses to sign for the validity of your document.
More than half of the adults over 50 in the U.S. are without a health care proxy for their medical wishes. Understanding the key components of these documents helps you appreciate the value and create the directive you need for your estate plan.