A power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes an agent to make decisions on your behalf. Despite what the document’s name suggests, the agent does not always have to be a lawyer. It might be a relative, friend, or someone you trust who has your best interests in mind.
A power of attorney often covers finance- or business-related matters, such as allowing your agent to perform banking transactions, borrow money, or invest in your stead. In New York state, it typically does not cover matters related to health care.
Health care proxy
A health care proxy form enables you to appoint an agent for your health and treatment decisions. It requires your signature and several witnesses and generally functions like a medical power of attorney.
This form is helpful to people who cannot make medical decisions for themselves, such as those incapacitated during an accident or receiving end-of-life care. It compels health care providers and institutions to follow your agent’s directives like yours.
A healthcare proxy is different from a living will. A living will is a written document containing your health-related wishes for when you contract an incurable disease or become incapacitated. For instance, some people use a living will to refuse resuscitation or specific medical procedures.
Generally, a living will does not allow you to name an agent, but you can do so through a health care proxy form. Your agent might then function like an executor who will carry out the contents of your living will.
It might be comforting to know that you can appoint someone you trust to make critical decisions on your behalf. Whether it is a power of attorney or a health care proxy, working with someone who knows the law can help you maximize these legal documents’ usefulness.