Using a health-care proxy: An essential part of an estate plan

There are plenty of reasons to get started on your estate plan as soon as you can. While you might feel healthy or young now, the reality is that anything could happen to take that away from you or result in your death. From a random illness to a car crash, there is always a risk that you’ll end up being unable to care for yourself or pass away unexpectedly.

It’s important to talk to those you love about your health care wishes and what you want to have happen if you fall ill. This is a good time to talk about setting up a health care proxy and deciding who you want in charge of making medical decisions for you.

A health care proxy, also known as a durable medical power of attorney, appoints an agent who will then express your wishes to medical teams and others. They will do this since you can’t do so yourself, but they need guidance.

Can a health care proxy appoint an agent if you aren’t dying or terminally ill?

In some cases, you can have a proxy make decisions for you even when you are expected to survive. For instance, if you are under anesthesia and can’t be informed about changes in your condition, you could have a proxy present who could answer a medical provider’s questions about what you’d like to have happen. Similarly, if you were to be incapacitated by brain injury and couldn’t speak for yourself, that proxy could step in and provide the needed information to your medical team.

The agent who represents you should already know important information about you, such as:

  • Any current medical conditions you have
  • Any allergies to medications or outside factors that could play a role in your care
  • Whether you’d like a do-not-resuscitate order
  • Any other information that you would like to pass on to the medical team when you’re unable to speak for yourself

When you talk to the person you want to have as your proxy, make sure they know your medical treatment preferences, religious beliefs and feelings about health, illness, dying and the health care industry. Giving them a well-rounded look at your opinions will help them make decisions on your behalf that you would have been happy with making yourself. You may want to appoint a primary agent as well as a secondary individual who can step in if the first is not available.

Using a health care proxy to make sure you’re cared for is an essential part of your estate plan. Take the time to set this up now, and you’ll be prepared in the case of a severe injury or illness.