Factors to Consider in Choosing Your Healthcare Agent
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In our last blog post, we examined the need for every person to have a living will. As current events with the coronavirus COVID-19 show, the need for an advance directive has never been more apparent. Phelps LaClair, with offices in Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix and Scottsdale, has been in the business of estate planning for forty years. We have helped thousands of people find solace and security in knowing that this document will guide the medical decisions made on their behalf. One of the most important parts of your living will is the person you name as your healthcare agent. This is the person who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes.
Factors to Consider in Choosing Your Healthcare Proxy
A healthcare agent is an important role, and the person you choose will have the power to make critical healthcare decisions—like consent for a treatment plan, whether to accept or refuse certain procedures and treatments, and which healthcare providers or hospitals to use for your care. As a result, it is crucial to think carefully about who you choose to fill this role. Many people simply assume that their spouse or their oldest child should take on this role, but family members are not always the best suited. Here are some factors to consider when selecting an agent:
1) Emotional maturity.
People handle stress differently, and not everyone is able to set aside their emotions and make level-headed decisions when someone they love is suffering. In addition, some people are simply not assertive enough to act as a strong advocate in the face of differing opinions. You should choose someone who is able to think rationally in emotionally difficult circumstances, even if that means you must look outside of your family to find the best person for the job.
The person you choose to act as your healthcare agent should be someone who lives close by and is able to act on your behalf very quickly. In current times, many people might be under a mandatory or recommended stay-at-home order, or may not be available or willing to travel to another city or state. You should consider naming several alternate agents to account for potential unavailability.
3) Willing/able to serve.
Acting as a healthcare agent can be a time-consuming and emotionally draining job. Make sure that the person you choose is willing and able to set aside the time necessary to serve as your patient advocate. Don’t just assume the person you want to be your healthcare agent is willing—be proactive and ask if he or she is willing to take on that role. Keep in mind that you may want to avoid naming a friend or family member who is older, as there is a greater chance that they will experience mental or physical decline at the time you need them. However, in Arizona, your healthcare agent must be at least 18 years old.
4) Will honor your wishes.
Your healthcare agent has a duty to make decisions on your behalf that you would have made. This is the case even if your healthcare agent disagrees with your choices. Your medical agent needs to be someone who is willing to set aside his or her own opinions and wishes to carry out yours. It may be prudent to appoint someone who has values and religious beliefs that are similar to yours to reduce the instances in which your agent’s opinions differ significantly from yours. Do not choose anyone that you do not trust to carry out your wishes.
An advance directive may be among the most important legal documents you prepare—especially in light of the present coronavirus pandemic. Choosing a healthcare agent requires much consideration. At Phelps LaClair, we have the experience to help you think through your choice. We can also help with any other estate planning needs you may have—whether that’s setting up a financial power of attorney, last will and testament, or a trust. Please give us a call today to discuss how we can help you and your family be prepared should you fall ill during this pandemic.