Naming a Health Care Power of Attorney
Giving someone the power of attorney for health care gives them the authority to make your health care decisions in case you would ever be in a position where you could not make them for yourself. The decision of who to name as your agent should not be taken lightly, as this could be an important job. It’s important to name someone you trust, who would make wise decisions on your behalf.
When choosing an agent, make sure it’s someone who will understand your health care priorities and will honor your wishes when the time comes. I suggest having discussions with the person you name as agent about your health care wishes, letting them know what your priorities and wishes are. Then, if the situation arises where the agent needs to make decisions for you, they know what your wishes would be under the circumstances.
Although it’s not necessary for your agent to live near you, if you have multiple people to choose from, it’s probably best to choose the person that lives closest, as they are more likely to be at the hospital or travel with you, if necessary. You might want to refrain from naming someone who is overly sensitive in stressful situations or has difficulty handling conflicting opinions from other family members or medical personnel.
Before naming someone as an agent, you might want to ask them if they would be willing to take on that role. If so, then it’s good they know their role when the time comes. If they are hesitant or not willing to act, then you can omit them and go ahead and name someone else right away.
I suggest only naming one person as an agent at a time, rather than naming two agents to act simultaneously. This opens the door for potential conflict. It is a good idea to name at least one successor agent, in case your first option is unable or unwilling to act when the time comes.
After completing your health care power of attorney, give copies to your medical providers, as well as your family. I suggest giving a copy to the person you named as your first agent as well.
If you do a new health care power of attorney, make sure to destroy copies of your old form and inform everyone who may have the old copies that the old copy has been revoked.
Everyone age 18 and over should have a health care power of attorney in place. If something would happen and you would be unable to make your own medical decisions, and you do not have a health care power of attorney, your family would have to go through a guardianship proceeding in court, where the court would appoint an agent to act. This can cost thousands of dollars and be a stressful, time consuming process. If you don’t have a health care power of attorney in place, I suggest doing so soon. Ask your parents and loved ones, and make sure they have them too.