As you get older, you may come to realize that you or your loved ones will eventually be unable to make major decisions on their own. Before that time comes, it is common that people consider a health care proxy, living will, or power of attorney. However, many people are unaware of the significance that these documents hold. It is important to understand the difference among these various forms depending on what you and your loved ones want.
- Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy is a document that directs who will make your medical decisions for you after you are deemed to be unable to make your own decisions by a physician. Usually a family member or trusted friend is assigned this role to execute medical decisions of your best interest when you are unable to. You will be able to continue to make your own choices as long as you are still in the right state of mind. For example, if you were to fall into a coma, the health care proxy you appointed would take the steps necessary as per your wishes in this unexpected situation.
- Living Will
A living will is simply a document that contains your medical wishes written for family members, friends, and health care facilities. In the situation that you will be unable to communicate your health care wishes, this document should give loved ones and others an idea of what you would have wanted. This document does not appoint anyone to oversee and speak on your behalf. It is purely a document stating your medical wishes.
- Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney assigns a person (or people) to make financial decisions unrelated to making health care decisions for you. This includes factors such as paying your bills and can even include managing real estate and other assets. It is possible for the health care proxy to overlap with the power of attorney but there is a separation between the two. Power of attorney relates to financial matters while a health care proxy is exclusively medical decisions.
To summarize: a health care proxy dictates who makes your medical decisions (in both predicted and unexpected events) while a durable power of attorney dictates who will make your financial decisions for you. In addition, a living will is just your medical wishes on paper for any possible event that may arise.
A factor that people tend to forget is that an agents’ authority can be temporary as well as permanent depending on the situation. In the situation where you may be physically incapacitated for a limited amount of time, the agents’ are able to make decisions for you during the time you are unconscious. After you wake up, they lose their authority. In permanent situations such as being in a vegetative state, suffering from Alzheimer's, or otherwise, agents will be allowed to be authorized to make decisions on your behalf.
It is crucial to consider which loved ones would be the most suitable to carry these forms of authority. These kinds of documents may save trouble in the future in case anything arises. For more information on health care proxies or estate planning, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395.