Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of creating an estate plan is recognizing that a time may come when you are no longer in control of your circumstances. For example, when you pass away, someone else will take possession of your belongings. However, what happens if you become too ill to speak or to express your wishes with your family or your doctor?
An important part of your estate plan is a health care power of attorney, which designates someone you trust to make those critical decisions for you. Since this is a delicate and serious duty, you will want to choose someone who has integrity and who understands your desires. There are also practical matters to consider. This may not be as easy as it sounds.
Who is right for the job?
Many in North Carolina and elsewhere simply name as health care proxy their oldest child or another close relative who seems to be the logical choice. However, practical as this decision may be, it is not always the most effective. Your health care proxy should have as many of the following characteristics as possible:
- Will follow your wishes even if he or she disagrees with you
- Is able to stand up to other family members who may have other ideas about the kind of medical treatment you should receive
- Can communicate clearly with your medical team
- Can ask the right questions to ensure you get the care you need and desire, including speaking up if he or she does not understand what the doctor is saying
- Lives close enough to be available in case of an emergency
Most importantly, your health care power of attorney should understand what the role demands and be willing to serve you in this way. This involves sitting with you for some frank conversations about the kind of health care treatment you expect in case of illness or injury. For example, your power of attorney agent will need to know what extraordinary measures you want doctors to perform to save your life, what treatments you do not want to receive and when it is your wish for lifesaving measures to cease.
Selecting someone to serve as your power of attorney can be a difficult and emotional process. However, a skilled and compassionate estate planning lawyer can guide you in your choice as well as assisting you in preparing a comprehensive plan for your future.