Often when considering the benefits of estate planning Californians think about the importance of having plans in place for the disposition of their property upon their deaths. However, there is a particular estate planning tool that individuals can forget about that serves them during the critical periods of time when they are still alive but mentally or physically unable to make decisions for themselves.
This document is a health proxy. It should not be confused with a power of attorney. While a power of attorney also grants a second party the right to made decisions for an incapacitated person, there is a critical difference between it and a health proxy. Through a power of attorney a person grants another the right to make legal and financial decisions for them. Through a health proxy, a person grants another the right to make medical decisions for them.
In order for a person to be named a proxy for another individual's health care decisions, that person must be an adult. They should be a trusted individual who understands the health proxy creator's medical wishes and intentions. They should be prepared to make difficult decisions about the care of the individual if they become incapacitated including the decision to remove the individual from life-maintaining devices if that is the wish of the health proxy's creator.
Many estate planning tools and documents are intended to become relevant after a person passes on. However, several documents including the health proxy are very valuable to have in place for those challenging times when a person lives but cannot communicate their wishes on their own. Readers who want to learn more about estate planning and health proxy options are invited to contact their estate planning lawyers.