When it comes to your end-of-life arrangements, there’s a lot to think about. One of your worries might be leaving behind directions for your end-of-life care in case you aren’t able to make the decisions yourself. There are two documents that can give authority to your loved ones to make health care related decisions for you: a health care proxy and a durable power of attorney. While similar in allowing your loved one to make decisions on your behalf, there are subtle differences between durable power of attorney vs health care proxy.
What is a durable power of attorney?
A durable power of attorney is a legal document that appoints an individual (‘the agent’ or ‘attorney-in-fact’). While there are specific types of powers of attorney, the specific type that works in relation with a health care proxy is a medical power of attorney. An individual specified within this document is given financial authority to care for your medical treatment decisions if you are unable to consciously consent yourself. The document is ‘durable’ due to its “durability” in the case that if you become mentally incapacitated, the document still holds as valid.
What is a health care proxy?
Although the law differs slightly depending on which state you reside in, a health care proxy is generally a legal document that appoints an individual (‘the agent’) to have authority over your health care decisions in the case that you are unable to consciously consent to the procedure yourself. The health care proxy will be in charge of overseeing your care alongside your living will.
Your agent should be someone close to you: your partner, family, or a close friend. Within the document, the agent will have the authority to make decisions as if they were you, so make sure you choose someone you absolutely trust, and be sure to update the document every recommended ten years.
Attorney vs Proxy
Both documents are useful to have. Anyone over the age of 18 can authorize an individual, or individuals, within the documents.
While an agent under a health care proxy can make decisions on your behalf, your attorney-in-fact has the legal capabilities to make financial decisions on your behalf. Both titles can be held by a single individual, but if they are held by two separate people, there may be more gray area when making a decision. Both documents can be drafted to be as specific as you want, so if you do choose two separate people, make sure their individual capabilities are outlined ahead of time in the documents. A living will can also be a useful document, explicitly outlining your treatment preferences so an agent won’t have to make a tricky decision on your behalf.
Due to the difficult legal intricacies of end-of-life care, it’s suggested to start early. Only about a third of Americans have any type of advance medical care directive, but you can prepare these documents at any time once you are of legal age. If you are interested in planning your funeral arrangements in advance, we can help. Our ShareLife Team will walk you through the entire process when you’re ready.