What is Health Care Proxy?

Health care proxies are legal documents that allow you to designate someone as your medical decision maker if you become incapacitated. They’re one of several advance directives (such as living wills) designed to ensure that medical professionals honor your wishes if you become incapable of communicating them yourself.

Your agent, or surrogate, must be an adult with sufficient mental capacity to act on your behalf. A document provides your agent with authority over your medical treatment, hospitalization and doctor visits; when to discontinue life-extending therapies if they’re no longer beneficial; and informing people you want them as organ and tissue donors with consent forms.

Your agent can have as much or as little authority as you desire, including entering medical, nursing and residential facilities; signing insurance forms on your behalf; making financial decisions; authorizing medical and surgical procedures and more. Most states offer forms you can use to appoint a health care proxy online – some require witnesses or notaries’ signatures while others don’t require this step.

Your agent(s) may consist of multiple individuals; however, only one will be available at any one time. You should appoint one as your primary representative; alternatively you could appoint a “successor agent” who could fill this role if necessary. It is essential to discuss this decision with them to ensure they understand your wishes and condition completely.

If you do not have an established health care proxy in place, state law will decide who makes decisions for you if you become incapable of speaking for yourself. This could involve family or friend being appointed. Depending on state laws, they may or may not have access to all your records and may even not be legally accountable for decisions they make in good faith on your behalf; but no costs associated with treatments they authorize will need to be covered either way by you.

As straightforward as the process may seem, choosing a health care proxy can still be complex and emotional. If you need any assistance creating your health care proxy document, consult a lawyer. NerdWallet writers are subject matter experts, using primary, reliable sources like government websites and academic research in their writing to produce timely content with accuracy and timeliness – our content is regularly fact-checked by subject matter experts before being published here. For feedback regarding any article posted here please email [email protected]

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