A health care proxy is a signed document that gives an agent or agents the power to make medical decisions for someone in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated. Oftentimes, many people ask whether or not an attorney is required to sign a health care proxy for it to be valid. The answer to that question is no. An attorney is not required to sign a health care proxy. In order for a health care proxy to be valid, two adult witnesses must sign it. It is worth noting that a named health care agent cannot be a witness. In addition, it is important to name alternate agents in the event that the first agent is unable, unavailable, or unwilling to act.
An agent will begin to act on behalf of a loved one once he or she is deemed incapacitated by a licensed physician. Until then, an individual may make his or her own medical decisions. Use careful consideration when selecting an agent as well as a successor agent because he or she will be making decisions on your behalf, while you are in a vulnerable state. An agent is able to make decisions on medical treatment and procedures, among others. In addition, he or she will determine whether or not life-sustaining treatments shall be provided or removed. In regard to life-sustaining treatments, a health care proxy should indicate that an agent knows and will carry out your wishes. Given this broad power, it emphasizes the importance of selecting someone you trust will carry out your wishes. Furthermore, make sure you discuss your wishes with a potential agent and how you envision your future.
It is also important to document your wishes for the future in writing. For instance, if you wish to donate organs it should be in a signed writing. Additionally, you may choose to execute a living will along with the health care proxy. This will provide instructions to your agent and licensed physicians on your limitations or wishes for your health. Individuals may wish to limit his or her agent’s ability to make certain decisions. Also, individuals may address the use of certain medical treatments such as the use of blood transfusions, antibiotics, surgeries, feeding tubes, or cardiac resuscitation, among others.
Even though you do not need an attorney to execute a health care proxy, it is within a loved one’s best interest to complete a health care proxy and living will along with his or her estate plan. Selecting an agent for a health care proxy may be an extremely stressful decision. Additionally, it is important to make sure that both parties are comfortable with the decision before executing any agreements, which is why it is important to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who has the ability to provide insight.
The experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones, & Sweeney help seniors and their families handle all aspects of estate planning, including the establishment of a health care proxy and living will. Our New Jersey estate planning lawyers are trusted by their clients to handle each legal matter with diligence and compassion. For more information, contact our New Jersey estate planning law firm at (973) 256-0456.