If you are getting older, or have a serious medical condition, it is extremely important to have a plan in place in the event that you become unable to care for yourself. Any estate plan that deals with the risk of incapacity should have a complete set of advance directives, including a healthcare proxy. If you do not have a healthcare proxy, you could find yourself in a bad situation that can prevent you from getting the care you need.

What is a Healthcare Proxy?

    In simple terms, a healthcare proxy is a type of legal arrangement in which one person is given the authority to make medical decisions on another person’s behalf. The person who is appointed as the proxy can effectively decide whether to approve or deny any tests, procedures, or treatments that a doctor wishes to perform, and has the authority to give informed consent on the other person’s behalf. In extreme circumstances, a healthcare proxy even has the authority to approve palliative care, or to remove someone from life support.

Why Is a Healthcare Proxy Important?

    If you suffer a severe injury or illness, you may become unable to make your own medical decisions. This could include getting into a major accident, suffering from a heart attack, or suffering from a progressive condition like dementia. In these circumstances, your healthcare proxy is the person who will take over making these decisions, ensuring there is continuity of care and preventing any delays that might occur due to being unable to approve your own medical decisions.

What Happens if You Do Not Have a Healthcare Proxy?

    If you do not have a healthcare proxy and you become incapacitated, someone will need to be assigned as your legal guardian to make major medical decisions on your behalf. This requires going to court to apply for a guardianship, which can be a significant legal hassle. This, in turn, can significantly delay your care, and create serious problems for your loved ones as they wrestle with the requirements to become a court-appointed guardian.

When Should You Get a Healthcare Proxy?

    When it comes to getting advance directives and estate planning, there is no time too early to get started. If you do not already have a healthcare proxy, you should seriously consider getting one as soon as possible. And if you have advance directives in place but have not updated them in some time, you should seriously consider updating them. That way, you can make sure you will be taken care of if you are no longer able to care for yourself.

    The estate planning attorneys at David J. Lorber & Associates, PLLC will work with you to determine whether a guardianship might be necessary for your loved one, and help you to ensure your loved one receives the assistance they need. For comprehensive estate and elder law services in New York, call David J. Lorber & Associates, PLLC at (631) 750-0900 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our Setauket office.

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