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Why is a living will and health care proxy important?

When people plan for the future, they focus on things such as buying a house, buying a car, having a family. Later in life, they plan for how the house and the car are going to be distributed amongst the family.

Planning for what happens if you become incapacitated and unable to tend to your own affairs is just as important. Two things that can be put into place to address such an issue are a living will and a health care proxy.

What is a living will?

A living will details your wishes regarding medical treatment should you be unable to make such decisions for yourself. It does not grant another person to make medical decisions on your behalf beyond what is stated in the living will.

What is a health care proxy?

In New York, a health care proxy is created when you appoint another individual that you trust to make medical treatment decisions for you. The appointed agent also has the authority to make decisions depending on any changing medical situations.

Health care providers are required to follow the directions of your agent as though they are your own. When creating the health care proxy, you have the power to grant as much or as little authority to your agent as you choose.

What requirements must my agent meet?

When choosing an agent, most people rely on a partner, relative, or close friend. The state of New York provides specifications that must be met in order for an individual to serve as your health care proxy.

The person may not be under the age of 18, unless the individual is a parent or married. The agent cannot be your attending physician or an appointed (and unrelated) health care professional that represents 10 or more people. Also, the agent cannot administer or be employed by a hospital of which you are a patient at the time of the appointment unless that person is related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption.

What should I consider when choosing an agent?

Two of the most important factors to consider when selecting an agent are trustworthiness and dependability.

You will want to have complete trust that your agent will make medical decisions on your behalf that will align with your personal wishes and that he or she will stand firm in the face of any opposition regarding those decisions.

Having a living will and health care proxy in place is something to consider at any point in your life. For advice regarding these documents, contact an attorney with estate planning experience.

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