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Do I Need a Health Care Proxy?

Last updated on: November 16, 2023

Once we become adults, nobody has the right to speak for us. Unfortunately, there may be times in our lives when having someone to make important decisions for us may be critical in life-challenging emergencies. A healthcare proxy will appoint someone for these very instances when we want or need someone to speak on our behalf. Although you do not need to have an attorney create a health care proxy, having the experienced guidance of an New Jersey estate planning lawyer can help answer any questions or concerns about the responsibilities of a health care proxy.

At The Matus Law Group, our lawyers can help you navigate the complexities of healthcare proxy documents and other critical aspects of estate planning. We understand the importance of making informed decisions about your medical care, and we are here to provide the guidance you need. Whether you want to become a healthcare proxy or need assistance with any aspect of estate planning, our attorneys can help you every step of the way. Contact us today at (732) 785-4453 to schedule a consultation and secure the peace of mind that comes with a well-prepared healthcare proxy.

Everyone Should Have an Advance Directive for Their Health Care

Advance directives are not only for the elderly. If you lose the ability to communicate or make decisions for yourself in any way, whether that is due to a medical emergency or if you have developed dementia, an advance directive guides decision makers on what you would wish for yourself. Advance directives typically have two components, a living will, and a health care proxy.

The living will, or instruction directive, will give specific directions about your care, typically in end-of-life situations. A health care proxy appoints someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. Unfortunately, without a health care proxy, the courts may have to make critical medical decisions for you.

What is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy, or a medical power of attorney, is a legal instrument that allows another trusted individual to make health care decisions for you cannot do it for yourself. Unlike a living will, a health care proxy will give your agent or “proxy” as much or as little latitude as you are comfortable with in making important decisions about your medical care.

Even when you have close family nearby, competing opinions can substantially delay important decisions that may have to be made in emergencies. Your health care proxy gives one person the authority to make these important decisions on your behalf. Because the document doesn’t outline specific actions, however, you need to have an important discussion with this person so they understand what your wishes are.

Health Care Proxy Responsibilities

A health care proxy is a legally binding document created by an individual to appoint a trusted representative who will act on their behalf in making healthcare decisions if they are no longer able to make them themselves. Within this role, the chosen health care proxy is granted specific rights and responsibilities, including:

  • Making decisions regarding medical care, which encompasses choices related to medical tests, medications, and surgical procedures.
  • The authority to request or decline life-support treatments.
  • Decisions concerning pain management, including the authorization or refusal of particular medications or procedures.
  • Determining the location for the person’s medical treatment, including the ability to transfer them to another facility, hospital, state, nursing home, or hospice facility.
  • The possibility of pursuing legal measures on behalf of the individual to support their healthcare rights and choices.
  • The ability to request Medicare, Medicaid, or other program or insurance benefits for the individual.

These responsibilities may also entail fundamental management of the individual’s medical care, such as:

  • Familiarizing oneself with the individual’s medical condition and available treatment options.
  • Engaging in communication with the individual’s medical team, which may involve asking questions about the person’s condition, treatments, and alternatives.
  • Reviewing the individual’s medical records.
  • Keeping the individual’s family informed about their condition and treatment plan.
  • Gaining access to and authorizing the release of the individual’s medical records.
  • Requesting and coordinating second opinions or external medical care when necessary.

When it comes to designating a healthcare proxy in New Jersey, it’s crucial to seek guidance from a qualified New Jersey estate planning lawyer. At The Matus Law Group, our experienced lawyers can provide you with the legal guidance and support you need to make informed decisions and establish a comprehensive healthcare proxy that aligns with your wishes. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Who Should You Name As Your Proxy?

A health care proxy will name one person and an alternate to act on your behalf in the case of an emergency. Consequently, that person should be someone you know well and trust to make decisions on your behalf. Although family members often weigh-in in times of great emergency, this person will be the ultimate decision maker and the one who the medical providers will take direction from.

When considering a proxy, you will want to name someone you not only trust but someone willing to take on the responsibility. This should be someone who is not only responsible and can weigh important consequences but also someone who can be decisive without getting embroiled in family dynamics.

Aspect Details
Advance Directives Advance directives include a living will and a health care proxy. These documents guide medical decisions when you can’t communicate your wishes.
Living Will (Instruction Directive) A living will provides specific directions about your medical care, typically in end-of-life situations. It outlines your preferences for medical treatments and interventions.
Health Care Proxy (Medical Power of Attorney) A health care proxy appoints a trusted individual to make health care decisions on your behalf when you cannot. It gives them the authority to make these decisions based on your wishes.
Importance of Health Care Proxy Having a health care proxy is crucial because it designates one person to make medical decisions, avoiding potential delays and disagreements among family members during emergencies.
Choosing Your Proxy When selecting a health care proxy, choose someone you trust, who understands your wishes, and is willing to take on the responsibility of making important medical decisions.
Alternate Proxy It’s advisable to name an alternate proxy in case your primary choice is unavailable or unwilling to act as your proxy.

Having an Important Discussion With Your Proxy

Your proxy must understand what your wishes are in certain scenarios. What would you want done if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness and not expected to recover? What if you suffered a coma and were not expected to improve? What would you decide to do if you required life support and would be fully dependent on others? These are important matters to discuss with your proxy so he or she understands how you would make these decisions for yourself.

Having a health care proxy is just one important component of having a comprehensive estate plan. If you have any questions about health care proxies, advance directives, or any other questions about planning for the future of your estate the experienced estate planning lawyers at the Matus Law Group are here to help. Contact us for a consultation today.

Christine Matus

Christine Matus
Christine Matus

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