As part of their estate plans, many people choose to also prepare for incapacitating illness or injury. To this end, they sometimes appoint health care proxies. A chosen personal representative, a health care proxy makes medical decisions on behalf of a grantor when he or she cannot speak or make decisions for himself or herself.
Because of the authority that people give their health care proxies, they should use significant care when selecting someone to serve in this role.
Do they meet the state’s requirements?
According to the New York Department of Health, when choosing a health care proxy, people should make sure their selected agents meet the state’s requirements. People may choose family members, friends or other trusted acquaintances to serve in this role. A person can select a doctor to serve as his or her health care proxy. However, the doctor cannot also act as his or her treating physician.
What if people divorce spouses named as health care proxies?
After getting divorced, people may decide to keep their former spouses as their proxies or to name someone else. By law, the divorce voids their existing health care proxy unless they indicate on the form that they wish their named proxy to remain the same, despite the end of the marriage. People may also choose to complete a new health care proxy form, but they do not have to take any formal action to relieve their exes of their authority to make medical decisions on their behalf.
Will the chosen proxy carry out the grantor’s wishes?
According to the New York Department of Health, a health care proxy may have to make end-of-life decisions for grantors when serious illness, injury or age keep them from making decisions and speaking for themselves. Therefore, people should select someone they think will follow through with their beliefs and preferences when making such choices. For example, a wife may struggle to carry out her husband’s wishes to not receive defibrillation or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Preparing for incapacity when otherwise young and healthy may seem a waste of time. However, should the worst come to pass, people may benefit from having such plans in place.