Choosing your healthcare agent

Choosing a healthcare agent is one of the most important estate planning decisions that you can make. As you consider your options, it’s important that you have a good understanding of what a healthcare agent does and what you should be looking for when choosing one.

What is a healthcare agent?

A healthcare agent, also known as a proxy or healthcare power of attorney, is someone that you appoint to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. For example, they could step in if you are in a coma or if you are suffering from a mental disease that incapacitates you.

How do they make decisions?

Healthcare agents will make decisions alongside your healthcare providers and loved ones, but their main responsibility is to follow your healthcare directive or living will.

What should I consider when choosing my healthcare agent?

Choosing your healthcare agent is an important task. You may choose anyone that you want, except for your healthcare provider or anyone that works for the facility in which you are receiving care. It may be wise to appoint more than one so that you are protected even if one agent cannot fulfill their duties.

Your healthcare agent should first be someone that you trust to make these lifechanging decisions. They should be willing to speak up for you and assert your wishes, even if they do not agree with them or if they conflict with what others say. It can be beneficial if your agent is able to be with you in person to make decisions and have the ability to handle the physical, emotional and financial responsibilities that may come with the position.

Have an honest conversation with your potential healthcare agents so that they understand what responsibilities they may have and if they are able to fulfill them. It may also be helpful for them to sit down and discuss the position with your estate planning attorney.