While it can be difficult to think about, there may come a time when a person cannot make health care decisions for him or herself. A health care proxy may be useful to consider as part of an estate plan.
Health care proxy
In New York, an adult who is 18 years of age or older can complete a health care proxy form. The adult who creates a health care proxy is called the principal. The form designates an agent who can make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf.
The principal can decide how much decision-making authority to give the agent. This means that the principal can give the agent the ability to make all health care decisions or only particular ones.
The agent’s authority begins when a doctor determines that the principal no longer has the capacity to make decisions or him or herself. If the health care decision involves withdrawing or withholding life sustaining treatment, a second doctor must confirm the decision.
The agent is required to make health care decisions according to the principal’s wishes, religious and moral beliefs and in the principal’s best interest. The agent’s decision is final unless a family member or facility obtains a court order overturning the decision. Once the agent has the authority to act for the principal, he or she can request the principal’s medical information and records to make health care decisions.
The principal can name an alternate agent who can act in the event the first agent is not able or willing to act. The principal can decide the circumstances when they would like the alternate agent to act.
An experienced attorney can provide information about the health care proxy and advise about other estate planning matters.