When creating an estate plan, one of the most important documents to include is a Health Care Proxy. A Health Care Proxy allows a principal to appoint an agent to make health care decision for the principal, but only when principal cannot make his or her own decisions.
If you are interested in executing a Health Care Proxy, you will have to appoint someone to serve as your agent. In New York, you can only have one agent authorized to serve at a time. After naming a primary agent, you should also name a successor agent in the event the primary agent is unable to act. The next question: Who is the right person to serve as your agent?
Here is a list of some important things to consider when evaluating a prospective Health Care Proxy agent:
- The prospective agent’s knowledge of your health care wishes and beliefs.
Since the main responsibility of the Health Care Proxy agent is to make medical decisions for you, it would be best to choose an agent who understands your wishes and beliefs.
- The prospective agent’s geographic location relative to yours.
Generally, your agent will perform his or her duties in person. An agent who lives closer to where you live can get to where you are, a hospital in your neighborhood, for example, quicker than an agent who lives farther away.
- The prospective agent’s familiarity with medical-related matters.
An agent who works in the field of medicine or is otherwise knowledgeable of medical-related matters may more easily understand the facts and circumstances of your situation and arrive at a decision quicker and more efficiently.
- The prospective agent’s ability to make tough decisions and operate under pressure.
An agent may be called on in a time of crisis and the decisions he or she must make can come with a wide range of outcomes, some of which can be quite unpleasant.
It is rare that any one person will check all these boxes. Do not be too concerned if your agent seems to be lacking when it comes to one or more of the above. So long as you choose someone that you trust and that you know is willing to help you during a time of need, you cannot make a wrong choice. If you are interested in learning more about the Health Care Proxy and discussing your agent candidates, you should consult with an experienced Estate Planning attorney.
By Wayne R. Carrabus, C.P.A., Esq., at Futterman, Lanza & Pasculli, LLP with offices in Smithtown, Bay Shore and Garden City, NY, and clients throughout metro New York. He concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Medicaid Planning, Medicaid Applications, Estate Planning, Probate and Estate Administration and Estate Taxes.