Appointing someone to handle your healthcare needs as you age is a smart estate planning move. More specifically, older adults should consider designating an advance healthcare directive agent. This individual will make your health decisions should you become incapacitated.
Legally creating a health care directive to appoint this agent can provide you peace of mind. Plus, the best way to make sure your health care decisions are made according to your wishes is to choose the right person to represent you.
What Can an Advance Healthcare Directive Agent Do?
Unless you limit the powers of an advance healthcare directive agent, they will generally have authority under California law to:
- Give approval for or refuse any care or treatment affecting your physical or mental condition;
- Choose or fire health care providers and institutions;
- Approve or reject tests, surgery, and medication associated with your care;
- Direct whether you can receive healthcare such as artificial nutrition or be removed from life support; and
- Make decisions on donating your organs or authorize an autopsy.
How to Choose an Advance Healthcare Directive Agent
The person you choose to be your advance healthcare directive agent may be a family member or a friend. However, the agent cannot be your doctor or other medical staff that work for that doctor or the health care facility where you live. Note that there is an exception to this restriction if the doctor or medical staff are related to you.
However, because the advance healthcare directive agent is tasked with making important decisions, there are other non-legal qualities you should consider before appointing an agent. For example, your agent should be someone you trust with your life and can easily talk to about your wishes and expectations for your medical care. Furthermore, both parties must be comfortable enough to discuss any misunderstandings between each other’s expectations.
Additionally, you should choose someone who will be firm and assertive about following your wishes. This is especially important if your family has any objections to your wishes. Otherwise, if a doctor or hospital is resistant to certain approaches to your treatment, the agent also has to be a strong advocate for you in those cases.
Finally, note that you can always change your agent before you are incapacitated. However, you must make this change in writing and tell your healthcare provider. Therefore, while this is an important decision you should take seriously, if you fall out with a previously chosen agent, you can replace them.
Contact A People’s Choice for Help
The California probate code provides a form that you can fill to create an advance healthcare directive. That said, if you want to create a custom advance healthcare directive, you can contact A People’s Choice for affordable, non-attorney help in preparing the document. Plus, A People’s Choice can also help with preparing other estate planning documents – contact us today to learn more!