4 minute read

Medical Proxy: How to Choose a Health Care Proxy

Choosing a health care proxy - someone who can make medical decisions for you - is a very important decision. Here are some tips for choosing yours.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

A crucial aspect of setting up a strong Estate Plan has to do with choosing the right players. Whether you’re setting a Will, a Trust, or an Advance Directive, one thing they share in common is the need to nominate a trusted individual to carry out your wishes at a time when you can’t communicate them yourself. One such role is the Medical Proxy, also known as a Health Proxy. This is the person you’re entrusting to make medical decisions on your behalf. How should you go about picking the right person for this role? Keep reading to find out all the tips you’ll need to make this important decision. 

What is a Health Proxy?

A health proxy is an estate planning document that allows you to name another individual who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. In other words, if you are unable to speak for yourself, this proxy is legally authorized to communicate your wishes and make decisions on your behalf. 

It often surprises people to find out that estate planning can also relate to your future health care decisions. As it turns out, it’s an important aspect of it. The conversation surrounding estate plans often centers around the protection and distribution of assets after one’s death. However, we can also use our estate plans to plan what should happen if we’re alive but medically incapacitated. 

Incapacitation means that you can’t make your own decisions or communicate those decisions, such as when you are in a coma, are unconscious, are terminally ill, etc. During these times, it’s empowering to have a trusted individual who can make and communicate decisions for you. Read more about how a health care proxy works.

Here is a list of common medical proxy responsibilities to give you a better idea of the scope of agency a proxy might have:

  • Make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated

  • Access and read your medical records

  • Discuss tests, procedures, and treatments with doctors

  • Gain full access to your medical information

  • Ask questions and get the necessary information to make decisions for you

  • Advocate on your behalf if needed

Tips for Choosing Your Health Care Proxy

Choosing your medical proxy is no casual act. This is someone you are trusting to make medical decisions for you at a time when you have no voice of your own. When a medical professional deems that you are incapacitated, your medical proxy gains the authority to review your medical records, discuss your care with your medical team, and make decisions on your behalf. Sometimes, these decisions can be matters of life or death. This is why it’s important to select your medical proxy carefully. 

Here are some tips to consider when choosing your medical proxy:

  • Choose someone who knows your values & wishes

  • Choose someone who is comfortable with the role

  • Choose someone who can handle making tough decisions

  • Remember you can always update your health care proxy

Choose someone who knows your values & wishes

You can choose anyone to be your medical proxy, but oftentimes it will be your spouse, other close family members, or friend. They will look at your medical records, discuss your care with your doctors, and make decisions about your medical care. You’ll want to choose someone who knows you and your values well, and you feel confident will make decisions that are in line with your wishes.

Remember, your proxy becomes active in the scenario in which you are incapacitated and are unable to communicate your needs and wishes on your own. Who do you know that makes the best candidate for relaying your medical wishes?

It is helpful to note that you have the opportunity to write down your wishes regarding your medical care in your Living Will. This document provides your medical proxy with a reference and guidance on your medical wishes.

Choose someone who is comfortable with the role

As you might imagine, serving as a medical proxy is a large role to fulfill. Incapacitation typically relates to acute medical conditions. Not only will the medical proxy have a great deal of responsibility, these responsibilities may last for long durations.

Be sure to choose someone who is comfortable with taking on this role. Once you select your ideal person, sit down with them and take the time to explain the role, including the responsibilities that they might have. Also, be sure to explain your medical care wishes and goals so that they understand what types of decisions you’d like to be made. This will give them an opportunity to decline if they don’t think they’re the right fit for the job.

Choose someone who can handle making tough decisions

Even if you think a person would agree to be your health care proxy, you should also make your own assessment about a person’s ability to perform under pressure and make difficult decisions. They may be put in situations where they have to make a potentially life-or-death decision in very little time. Can they handle the pressure? Only you and that person can come to this conclusion. 

Remember you can always update your health care proxy

Before you get too stressed out about making your decision, remember that you can always update your medical proxy as needed. What’s important here is that you’re choosing someone and setting up your medical proxy. In the case something unexpected happens, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your medical documents are already in place. If you change your mind about who you think would be the best fit to serve as your medical proxy, you can always update your document down the road if you need to. 

Update Your Health Care Proxy Today

A medical proxy, also called a health care proxy, is a part of your Advance Directive in your Estate Plan. Your Advance Directive is made up of your medical proxy, in which you name the person you’re entrusting to make your medical decisions if you’re unable to, and your Living Will. Your Living Will is the document you use to express your wishes regarding medical care and end-of-life planning. 

What many people don’t understand about estate planning is that it has so much more to do than protecting and divvying up your assets. A strong Estate Plan can impact you while you’re still alive, as you might have learned today. There may be a time when you’re incapacitated at the hospital, and your medical proxy will step in and make those important decisions for you, rather than leaving it all up to the doctors. You’ll be so glad that you took the time to set up the necessary documents.

This also strengthens our case for why anyone over the age of 18 should consider setting up an Estate Plan right away. This is because illnesses, accidents, and injury that could potentially lead to incapacitation can happen to anyone, no matter their age. Even if you don’t think you need an Estate Plan because you don’t have any money or savings, you should at least create one for the purpose of leaving instructions for your health care. 

If you think that setting up an Estate Plan sounds too morbid or complicated, we’re here to change your mind. Trust & Will provides the perfect package to help you get started. Our Health Care Documents plan is very affordable, and will set you up with your Living Will, Power of Attorney (Medical Proxy), HIPAA Authorization, and your Last Will & Testament. Not only that, our platform is easy to navigate and is designed to make the estate planning process painless, informative, and enjoyable. This plan makes for the perfect starting point for any young person who is considering setting up an Estate Plan. Once you’ve got this set up, you’ve got the perfect foundation. 

If you’re wondering how to become someone’s health care proxy, or how to change your own, don’t forget that you can update your documents at any time. Trust & Will makes it easy for you to do that as well. It’s designed so that your Estate Plan can grow and change along your side!

Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Browse more topics in our Learn Center or chat with a live member support representative!

Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.


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