Akridge & Balch, P.C. | Attorneys at Law
Helping You Reach Your Goals

Choosing the right health care proxy

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2024 | Estate Planning

Some of the most important documents in your estate plan have nothing to do with how you want your assets distributed after you’re gone. They involve detailing your wishes for a time where you may not be able to express them yourself and designating someone to advocate for you.

Alabama has an advance directive for health care form, which includes a living will and a health care proxy document. In the living will, you can state your wishes regarding life-prolonging measures if you are “terminally ill or injured” or “permanently unconscious.” These are referenced only if you’re unable to indicate your wishes yourself at that time.

The other part of that advance directive allows you to designate a health care proxy. That is the person you want to speak for you if you’re unable to. How much independent authority you give this person is up to you. You can give them the authority to make decisions around continuing or stopping life-sustaining care or require them to adhere to your living will.

Either way, it’s crucial to choose your health care proxy carefully. Likely, if they have to step in and fulfill this role, there will be decisions that aren’t covered in your living will. You want someone with these attributes, among others:

  • They can remain calm in stressful situations.
  • They can take in a lot of information and make sound decisions based on that information.
  • They won’t be intimidated by medical professionals or others who may want something you don’t.
  • They’re comfortable with the wishes you’ve codified and are willing to make tough decisions based on those wishes.

It’s also crucial to choose someone who knows you well enough to know what you’d want if you could speak for yourself, even if it’s not covered in your living will. More practically, you should choose someone who will be accessible if and when needed – preferably in person.

Why you shouldn’t assume your spouse will have this role

Even if you have a spouse whom you would count on to be your proxy, you need an alternate in case you and your spouse are involved in the same catastrophic event. That’s another reason to codify your wishes regarding life-sustaining care.

It’s a lot to consider. Having legal guidance will help you ensure that these and other estate planning documents are valid and accurately reflect your choices.