Experienced NY Estate Planning Lawyer Explains Health Care Proxy Changes

If you should become incapacitated due to an illness or accident, it’s important to have arranged for a designated person to make medical decisions on your behalf. You do this by creating and signing a health care proxy. Without this document, your loved ones can’t request medical treatment, even if you told them how you wanted your care handled.

The skilled New York estate planning lawyers at Landskind & Ricaforte Law Group P.C. understand that a health care proxy ensures your medical wishes are followed and you get the desired treatment should you be in a coma or incapable of making your own decisions. They also know that many people might want to change that proxy—even after they’ve signed it. At Landskind & Ricaforte, our compassionate estate planning lawyers can help you create or change a proxy document that protects you when you’re unable to protect yourself. 

Benefits of a New York Health Care Proxy

When you create an estate plan, a health care proxy is one of the most critical documents to include. This directive allows you to appoint someone—your “agent”—to make health care decisions for you should you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated and can’t make them yourself. This trusted person is usually your spouse, a child, or even your attorney. 

What Your Health Care Proxy Agent Can Do for You Woman in hospital bed while doctor talks  with health care proxy agent

An agent’s job is to communicate your health care wishes to doctors, specialists, and other medical providers. When you create a health care proxy, you determine what decisions the agent is allowed to make on your behalf and how much or how little power they have, such as: 

  • Discuss your medical records with your entire medical team
  • Give consent for or deny certain medical tests 
  • Select certain treatments 
  • Ask for second opinions and further consultations
  • Stop treatments and make decisions about nourishment given through a feeding tube 
  • Decide how treatments should be administered

However, it’s important to know that your health care proxy agent can’t make non-health-related or financial decisions for you.

Reasons to Change Your New York Health Care Proxy

Over time, you may want to change your health care proxy. There are many reasons to do so including, but not limited to: 

  • Your agent no longer can handle this important task. At some point, they may leave the area, which could make handling your medical decisions difficult. Your agent might feel it would be a disservice to you to continue in this position if they weren’t going to be readily available to help you.
  • Your agent may not want to handle this essential task. Being a health care proxy agent is a big job that comes with time commitments and emotional weight. It may become too big for your designated person to manage.
  • Your current health care proxy is old. Even though this document won’t expire, it can be helpful to ensure your estate information is updated as you age.
  • You’ve changed your mind about the agent. This might happen because your spouse dies, you get a divorce, a child moves away, or you no longer trust the person you appointed.

Conversation With Your NY Health Care Agent

Choosing someone to make health care decisions for you is a crucial decision. When you work with the knowledgeable estate planning and elder law attorneys at Landskind & Ricaforte, we’ll guide you through critical questions to consider and how to structure the conversation to have with your potential agent. 

We know that this topic isn’t always easy. Here are some tips for having that conversation.

  • Discuss what you want to happen if you develop dementia, become terminally ill, or aren’t expected to come out of a coma. 
  • Detail your wishes if something unexpected happens while you’re under anesthesia.
  • Explain how you feel about remaining in a persistent vegetative state.
  • Consider how you might feel if you could no longer communicate with other people.

You should also clarify your values and define quality of life. 

  • Would you want to remain on life support if your brain and/or body has shut down? 
  • How do your religious or spiritual beliefs affect how medical decisions are handled? 
  • What type of medical treatment are you comfortable with? 
  • At what point would you want to move from getting treatment to being made comfortable?
  • Would you want medication to ease the pain? 

When you have this type of honest discussion with the person you want to handle your medical decisions, you’ll be more confident about future medical and palliative care.