If you are working on your estate plan, you know that some decisions are more difficult than others. For example, choosing someone to be your health care power of attorney can be a delicate and confusing process. A power of attorney agent is someone you authorize to act on your behalf when health care issues arise at a time of incapacitation when you are unable to make the decisions on your own.
You may have in mind someone you feel bound to select for this important role, but how can you know if you are making the right choice? While it may seem logical to select your spouse, your eldest child or your closest friend, there are certain characteristics you will want to look for to ensure the person to whom you grant this authority will have your best interests in mind.
Who is right for the job?
Your power of attorney, or health care proxy, may have some serious and difficult decisions to make. For example, if you undergo a routine surgery but develop complications during the procedure, doctors may have several choices for how to proceed, each with varying degrees of risk and success. Your health care power of attorney will make that decision in your name based on his or her knowledge of your wishes. More often, such agents act in the interests of someone who has declined in health due to age.
Since your life may truly be in the hands of your power of attorney, you may want to consider someone who has the following characteristics:
- You have complete trust that your agent will respect your wishes even if they are counter to the agent’s beliefs.
- The agent will not easily allow other family members or friends to pressure him or her into making decisions.
- He or she can communicate effectively with medical staff and family members, especially when faced with difficult decisions.
- The person you have in mind has enough knowledge of health care, treatments, diagnostic tests and other factors to know the appropriate questions to ask to ensure you receive quality care.
- Your agent lives close enough to you that he or she can arrive quickly in case of emergency.
Perhaps the most important quality is that the person you choose is willing to take on the responsibilities and authority you wish to convey. This may include taking the time to sit with you and discuss your wishes for a variety of circumstances. As difficult as it may seem to select a power of attorney, doing so can save your loved ones much suffering and conflict. Your attorney can guide you through the process and assist you in making your choice for a power of attorney agent.