An advance directive, or medical power of attorney, is a crucial estate planning document. This document gives you the opportunity to designate someone to act on your behalf if you become unable to make your own medical decisions due to a debilitating injury or illness. This person may be known as a health care agent, proxy or surrogate.
Many people choose the following individuals as their health care proxy:
- Close friend
- A relative
This list is a good place to start when considering someone for this crucial responsibility. But you may need to do some careful assessments before coming to a final decision. Below are some ideal qualities to look for in a health care agent.
Your health care proxy should be bold, decisive and self-assured. This is vital because this individual may need to make choices against the wishes of other loved ones. He or she may also face opposition from nurses and doctors. If you see this type of conflict as a possibility, make sure you choose someone who can stand up for your desires no matter what.
Whether the person lives near you is a necessary factor to consider. If you have a prolonged terminal illness, this individual may need to spend several weeks or months ensuring the medical professionals heed your health care wishes. But if the right person does not live in the same city or state, it does not need to be the ultimate determining factor.
You should also think about who you will name to manage your financial affairs in the same circumstances. Consider the benefits of naming the same trustworthy person to make defend your medical and financial wishes. But if you want to name separate people, be sure they can work well together, get along and compromise.
When you choose the right person to be your health care surrogate, you give yourself and your loved ones peace of mind.