What is a Health Care Proxy
One of the legal documents your estate planning lawyer should recommend is a health care proxy. Also known as a medical power of attorney, this is the document that will name a friend or family member to make health care decisions if you are unable to do so.
Can You Specify Treatment Decsisions in a Health Care Proxy?
In some states you can make a living will that specifies what treatment decisions you would make. This can include saying whether or not you want life sustaining treatment and under what circumstances.
Massachusetts does not recognize living wills. Our state law does recognize a health care proxy and doctors will honor the decisions of your health care agent or proxy. It is still a good idea to go through the exercise of thinking about what you would or would not want if you are unable to make decisions. This can serve as a valuable guide to the person you identify as a proxy.
Also, if something happened to you in another state that does recognize living wills, that document could avoid unnecessary or unwanted medical decisions.
Does the Health Care Proxy Authorize Financial Decisions?
A health care proxy does not authorize anyone to make financial decisions on your behalf. If you would like to name someone to do that, you should ask your attorney about either a springing or durable power of attorney.
When Should You Have a Health Care Proxy?
Once you become an adult, you are never too young to consider a health care proxy. Many people think of this as an issue for the elderly or terminally ill. The truth is anyone can be incapacitated by illness or injury, even if it is temporary.
For parents, remember that as soon as your child turns 18 you no longer have the blanket legal authority to make decisions about medical treatment that you did when they were young. It is a good idea to have your young adult fill out and sign a health care proxy document, especially before they go off to college or move out of state. This means if they get sick or are in an accident and are unable to communicate their decisions, you at least know that they have someone trustworthy to do that for them.
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