Health Care Surrogates
Circumstances can arise where a person becomes incapacitated due to injury or disease and can’t make their own medical treatment decisions. Such important decisions may involve treatment decisions, surgery, medication or other matters. The health care surrogate is a specific kind of power of attorney that lets you name a person you trust to make these important medical decisions for you when you’re unable to act on your own.
Failure to name a health care surrogate may result in estranged family members, doctors, or sometimes even judges making your treatment decisions with little understanding of what you would prefer. This was a common problem with the LGBT community before the courts ruled for marriage equality. In those earlier times, a life-long partner would not have any legal standing to make decisions for an incapacitated loved-one. The importance of this legal planning tool remains vital for all segments of society today.
Legal spouses are generally given decision-making deference as “next of kin.” Today, regardless of your type of family, if you’re not legally-married, your partner will not likely have legal standing to make medical decisions.
Married couples, however, are well-advised to make health care surrogates in case both spouses are incapacitated at the same time, as from the common scenario of being in a car accident together. In this case, a successor (back-up) agent can step in with legal authority. Also, by having a health care surrogate naming your spouse and a successor, if your spouse should pre-decease you, another person will be lined up and ready to help you make medical decisions.
The main difference between a health care surrogate and living will is the health care surrogate covers medical decision-making outside the literal life or death context of a living will [LINK]. For the end-of-life decisions involving “heroic” life-support measures, the living will is the right estate planning document.
As with the Living Will, there are specific legal requirements for making a valid and enforceable document. The person making the health care surrogate must be mentally competent to understand what they’re signing and the power being delegated. Their signature must also be witnessed and notarized.
At CPC Law, we believe the Health Care Surrogate is an important part of planning for the event of serious illness or disability. Call us to discuss this document as part of your estate plan.
Contact CPC Law at (407) 851-0201 and speak to an attorney now!
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