In setting up your estate plan, you'll be asked to name a number of fiduciaries to act on your behalf in various situations. One such fiduciary will be your Health Care Agent, also called a Health Care Surrogate, named in your Advance Medical Directive, also called a Health Care Power of Attorney or Medical Power of Attorney. In addition to selecting your first choice, you should also name one or more backup Health Care Agents just in case your first choice isn't available to serve when needed.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Health Care Agent
Your Health Care Agent will have complete authority to make health care decisions for you if for any reason you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. Factors you should consider when choosing your Health Care Agent include the following:
- How old is the potential Health Care Agent? All states require a Health Care Agent to be an adult, either over 18 or 21 depending on the appropriate state law. And note that even if the potential Health Care Agent is your own child, if the child is under the age of 18 or 21, then he or she won't be allowed to serve.
- Where does the potential Health Care Agent live? If the potential Health Care Agent lives in a different time zone or in another country, then he or she may be difficult to reach in an emergency situation.
- How easy is the potential Health Care Agent to get in touch with? If the potential Health Care Agent travels frequently or is usually difficult to get on the phone, then he or she may be difficult to reach in an emergency situation.
- Will the potential Health Care Agent be willing to follow through with your health care wishes? If the potential Health Care Agent doesn't have the same religious beliefs as you or would be hesitant to follow your directive to "pull the plug," then you should look for another agent.
- Does the potential Health Care Agent work in the health care field? If so, then he or she may be a better choice instead of someone who doesn't have this work experience. Note, however, that in some states you can't name a physician or other health care provider who is treating you as your agent because this would be a conflict of interest.