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Signing A Health Care Proxy

Signing a Health Care Proxy The South Shore PressQuestion:
Do I need a lawyer to sign a health care proxy?

Answer:
No, you do not need a lawyer to sign a health care proxy. The legal requirements of a health care proxy are that you have two adult witnesses, neither which needs to be a medical or legal professional.However, it is important to note that your named agent cannot be a witness. A health care proxy is a document that states who will make your medical decisions if a doctor deems you unable to make them for yourself. We also recommend our clients name alternate agents in case your first agent is unavailable or unwilling to serve.
Once you understand the purpose of a health care proxy, you should take the time to consider who you want to name as agent and successor agent. The choice of agent is an important one because they will be required to make medical decisions for you when you are at your most vulnerable point. Remember, the agent is only acting if you have been deemed incapacitated by a doctor. The agent is authorized to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This includes any treatment, service or procedure to diagnose or treat your physical or mental condition. Your agent can also make the decision to remove or provide life-sustaining treatment, as long as your health care proxy form states that they know your wishes regarding these matters.
Since your agent will have this broad authority, it is important that you choose someone you trust will make your healthcare decisions according to what you would want if you had the capacity to do so yourself. You should discuss with them that you want to appoint them and make sure that he or she is willing to act as your agent. After choosing the right person to act on your behalf, you should be thinking about what you want your life to look like as you get older. You may lose physical or mental capacity and therefore this is the time to speak with your appointed agent about what you envision should you become more frail.
As the status of our health is ever changing, you may also want to put your wishes and limitations for your healthcare in writing. The health care proxy form gives the option to limit your health care agent’s authority within the form itself. Additionally, if you choose to, you may state your wishes regarding organ and/or tissue donation. If you want to further explain your wishes regarding treatment, you can sign a living will which gives instructions to your agent and physicians. Many clients use this document to state types of treatments they would not want or to state that they want to be maintained in their home for as long as possible. The living will often addresses the use of cardiac resuscitation, antibiotics, dialysis, cancer treatments, etc.
While you do not need a lawyer to create a health care proxy or living will, it is a good idea to complete these along with your other estate planning documents. This affords you the opportunity to talk through your wishes with an attorney and for them to counsel you based on situations they have seen with other clients in these situations.

Filed in: Ask Nancy

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