Corona or no Corona, now is a great time to plan ahead should you or a loved one fall ill. One of the most important and easy things you should do is select a healthcare agent.
What is a Healthcare Agent?
A healthcare agent is a person you authorize in a healthcare power of attorney to make decisions about your medical care if you are too ill to make them yourself or are otherwise unable to communicate your wishes, such as if you’re incapacitated.
Why You Should Choose a Healthcare Agent Now
Since no one knows exactly how they will be affected by the Corona virus (or any virus!), part of that planning is making sure someone has the authority to make healthcare decisions for you if you fall ill and are unable to make those decisions for yourself.
Bear in mind, you could become incapacitated at any time from many different things, such as a car wreck. If you don’t have this document in place, your family may have to get court permission to act for you, which can be an expensive and time consuming process.
Factors to Consider in Choosing Your Healthcare Agent
The person you choose will have the power to make critical healthcare decisions—like consenting to a treatment plan, whether to accept or refuse medical treatment, and which healthcare providers or hospitals to use for your care. So, it is crucial to think carefully about who should serve for you. Many people simply assume that their spouse or maybe their oldest child should take on this role, but they may not be 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. Also, some people are simply not assertive enough to act as a strong advocate in the face of differing opinions of other family members – or even health care providers – who might suggest a treatment plan you do not want. You should choose someone who is able to think rationally in emotionally difficult circumstances, even if that means looking outside of your family to find the best person for the job.
The person you choose to act as your healthcare agent ideally should be someone who lives at least relatively close by and is able to act on your behalf fairly quickly in the event of a medical emergency or if you need that person to serve in that role for an extended time period. In current times, some 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. Consider naming several alternate agents if your chosen person can’t act for you.
3) Are They Able and Willing to Serve?
Acting as a healthcare agent can be a time-consuming and emotionally draining job. Don’t just assume the person you want to be your healthcare agent is willing: Actually ask if he or she is willing to take on that role.
Keep in mind that if you are elderly, you may want to avoid naming a friend or family member who also is older, as there is a good chance that they will experience mental or physical decline at the same time as you, which could impede their ability to serve for you when the time comes.
4) Will They Honor Your Wishes No Matter What?
The person you name should make decisions on your behalf, that you would have made, even if your healthcare agent disagrees with your choices. So, your healthcare 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. Do not choose anyone that you do not trust to carry out your wishes!
We’re Here to Help!
A healthcare power of attorney may be among the most important legal documents you prepare – especially in light of Corona. Picking a healthcare agent can be tricky and we can 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 General Power of Attorney, Will, or a Trust.
Please give Hamrick Law a call today to discuss how we can help you and your family be prepared should you fall ill from the coronavirus or from anything else.