How to choose a health care agent

While much of estate planning is focused on the distribution of assets upon one's passing, it really encompasses much more than that. Estate planning should also delve into important health care and financial decisions, especially in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated. After all, these matters are inextricably linked to the distribution of assets because these health-related and financial decisions can have a profound impact on the remaining value of an estate.

Choosing an individual to make those critical decisions in the event of incapacitation can be daunting. This is why individuals who are selecting a health care agent or an individual to hold power of attorney should consider a number of factors.

To start, an individual should carefully consider whether choosing a family member is the right option. Many people's instincts lead them to choose a loved one, but this can give the impression of favoritism, thereby hurting feelings. It can also lead to internal familial disputes if that individual acts in a way that is counter to the positions of other family members. This can set the stage for long-term familial strife that many want to avoid.

There are other important considerations. For example, an individual's assertiveness can be key. He or she needs to be able to make decisions that he or she feels is in line with an estate planner's wishes and not vacillate due to outside influences. A named health care agent or power of attorney should also live relatively close by so that they are easily accessible in the event of emergency, and it's beneficial to choose someone who is young enough to be around when around needed.

These matters are highly sensitive and require careful consideration, just like all estate planning decisions. Fortunately, competent estate planning attorneys can help guide Californians through the process so that they can rest assured that their estate plan will serve their interests.

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