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How Do You Become Someone’s Health Care Proxy in New Jersey?

Last updated on: June 6, 2024

In New Jersey, a health care proxy is a legal document that allows an individual to appoint someone else to make health care decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so themselves. This appointed person, known as the healthcare proxy, steps in to make medical decisions, ensuring that the individual’s health care preferences are followed when they can’t communicate their wishes directly. It’s a responsibility typically given to a trusted family member or friend who understands the individual’s desires regarding medical treatment and care.

If you’re considering becoming someone’s healthcare proxy in New Jersey, it’s crucial to understand the legal processes involved and draft a clear and legally sound health care proxy document. At The Matus Law Group, our New Jersey estate planning attorneys can help you grasp the responsibilities involved, draft the document to meet all legal requirements, and register the document properly if necessary. We are here to provide you with the assistance you need to effectively serve as a health care proxy, empowering you to make health care decisions that are both legally sound and in the best interest of your loved one. Contact us today at (732) 785-4453 to schedule a consultation.

Why Have a Health Care Proxy?

Although most of us don’t like to think about it, there may come a time when we can’t make crucial medical decisions for ourselves. You may think that your loved ones know what you would want should you ever be in this position. However, that is not always the case, especially when it comes to end-of-life matters. At a highly emotional time, making difficult decisions can overwhelm family members and lead to a lot of conflicts.

In emergency situations, care providers will take immediate measures to keep us alive, but once that emergency passes, they will look to others to make other important medical decisions. If there is nothing in place providing for this, the state will need to appoint a guardian to make these decisions on your behalf. The best way to avoid this, especially when critical decisions must be made, is to have a health care proxy in place.

What Kind of Decisions Will a Health Care Proxy Make?

While your power of attorney document can be as specific as you feel comfortable with, a health care proxy can make a wide variety of decisions on your behalf, depending on its terms. If you become incapacitated, your designated proxy can potentially decide

  • What medical care and treatments you will receive, including hospital care, home care, psychiatric treatment, and other medical decisions
  • Which doctors will provide that care
  • Where you receive care in the way of long-term care, assisted living, and nursing home care
  • Who takes care of your daily care on an ongoing basis

These are important decisions, and you will want to appoint someone whom you trust and have had these important conversations with.

How is a Healthcare Proxy Created?

The New Jersey law requires that the proxy be formally appointed in writing. In order for the healthcare proxy to be valid, the document that appoints a proxy must have a clear specification and language stating that it is going to be used for such an appointment. 

Many medical powers-of-attorneys found in bookstores, discount stores, and stationery shops do not comply with the requirements of the state. This is why you should be careful about signing such documents without consulting a legal professional.

A healthcare proxy document, like an Advance Directive, must be witnessed or acknowledged by two persons before it can be administered to a Notary Public or attorney at law.

Proxy Directives should always be treated the same as other important legal documents. It is important that copies of the Proxy Directive be sent to friends, family members, and physicians. However, it is essential that the original document remains accessible at all times and that its location is known to loved ones. 

Witnesses to any one of the documents mentioned above should not be related by blood, or marriage, not be eligible to receive anything from your estate or pursuant to your Will; nor should they be involved in providing your healthcare. If the designated proxy signs the document as a witness, the document will not be considered valid.

Steps/Requirements Details
Formal Appointment in Writing Proxy must be formally appointed in writing with clear specification and language for such appointment.
Compliance with State Requirements Document must comply with state requirements; many pre-made forms may not meet state standards, requiring consultation with a legal professional.
Witnessing or Acknowledgment by Two Persons Document must be witnessed or acknowledged by two persons before it can be administered to a Notary Public or attorney at law.
Distribution of Copies Copies of the Proxy Directive should be sent to friends, family members, and physicians; original document should remain accessible and its location known to loved ones.

Does a Health Care Proxy Have to be Notarized in NJ?

In New Jersey, notarizing a health care proxy is not legally required but is recommended. A health care proxy is a formal document that lets you designate a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions yourself. For the proxy to be valid, it must be signed and dated by you.

Notarizing this document adds a level of verification and can be particularly beneficial if you travel outside of New Jersey. Different states have different standards for recognizing the validity of health care proxies, and a notarized document is more likely to be accepted universally because it provides clear evidence of your identity and the authenticity of your signature.

Moreover, notarization can help avoid potential disputes about the legitimacy of your signature or the validity of the document, ensuring there’s clear evidence of your intention to appoint your chosen agent.

To have your health care proxy notarized in New Jersey, you need to sign the document in front of a notary public. The notary will verify your identity, witness your signature, and then stamp or seal the document to confirm that you are indeed the signer.

While it’s not obligatory, choosing to notarize your health care proxy is a sensible step to make sure your health care preferences are honored, both within New Jersey and in other states. Consulting an estate planning attorney can help you navigate other legal requirements and make informed decisions.

Getting Guidance When Making A Health Care Proxy

While there are many standard templates that set out basic health care proxy responsibilities, these can be very generic.

A health care proxy can be as broad or specific as the person making it wants. Unfortunately, lack of specificity can lead to disagreements between the agent and other family members regarding important health care matters. A health care proxy must be able to coordinate with the individual making the financial decisions and there may be times when these individuals disagree.

If you are considering becoming someone else’s health care proxy, it’s important to intimately understand their wishes and the possible pitfalls you may encounter. If you are someone who has no health care proxy in place or only has a generic template POA, you may wish to provide specifics so you can have peace of mind regarding certain situations.

Getting the advice and guidance of a New Jersey estate planning attorney helps when developing a comprehensive health care proxy so these matters can be understood and provided for in advance. To speak with an experienced New Jersey estate planning attorney about these important matters, contact the Matus Law Group online or at (732) 785-4453.

Christine Matus

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Christine Matus

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