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Here are the answers to 4 common health care proxy questions

You've been thinking about updating your estate plan, and you want to add to it. You already have a will, but something your spouse has been suggesting is that you choose someone to be a health care proxy.

You're not sure that you want other people making decisions for you when you're capable of doing so yourself. You know that the medical team would listen to your spouse if she was there. Do you really need a proxy?

Why have a health care proxy?

A health care proxy appoints a person to make your medical decisions when you cannot do so yourself. Whether you're under anesthesia, have suffered a debilitating injury and are in a coma, or have other situations that make it impossible for you to make decisions about your care, your agent will be able to speak on your behalf with this legal document to back them.

What are some other names for health care proxies?

Health care proxies may also be known as a health care surrogate or a durable power of attorney. If you have one of those listed in your estate plan, then you may already have your health care proxy in place.

Can you appoint more than one person to be your health care proxy agent?

You can appoint more than one person, but it's typical only to have one person in charge of your decisions at a time. For instance, you may want to set it up so that both of your children have the potential to be the agent, but only one can take on the role at a time.

How will the hospital know when it's time to listen to a health care proxy agent instead of the patient?

The decision to listen to a health care proxy comes down to a medical provider's opinion on your case. If the medical professional or professionals who are working with you believe that you don't currently have the capacity to make your own decisions over treatment, then the proxy may be implemented at that point.

As you can see, the truth about your health care proxy is just that it establishes who can make decisions on your behalf. While it is likely that a spouse would be able to make decisions for you, you may still want to have a legal document that grants that permission. If you were ever to divorce or separate, it's something you'd want to review again, too.

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