In terms of estate planning, the first medical document that many people include is an advance directive. It can simply tell the medical team what type of care you do and do not want. For instance, if you’re unconscious and can’t communicate your wishes, it could tell them not to resuscitate you if needed. The advance directive helps because the doctors can still follow your instructions even if you can’t communicate with them.
However, you can’t always predict what medical care you will need or what your situation will look like. A more dynamic way to address estate planning is by choosing a healthcare proxy or an agent through the use of a medical power of attorney. This document gives that third party the legal ability to make decisions on your behalf.
Choosing the right person to handle your medical care is critical
The most important part of setting up a power of attorney is just deciding who you trust. Characteristics to keep in mind include:
- How well they understand your wishes
- How close they live
- How close they are to you on a personal level
- How well they understand medical decisions
- Whether or not they are assertive enough to make hard choices
Most of all, you need to know that you pick someone who will put you first and who is willing to do it. Not all loved ones will be willing, as this can be a big responsibility and these decisions aren’t easy.
You need to find the right person and talk with them in advance before making any formal agreements. It can also help to work with an experienced legal team to get everything in place officially.