If you are ill or growing older, you may have many things on your mind about your future. While you certainly want to make plans for your estate and your assets, your health care may be of primary concern. Many in California have definite opinions about the kinds of care they hope to receive if they should become incapacitated. They also have strong views about the care and treatment they want or do not want at the end of their lives.

You may be among those who have decided to include a health care power of attorney in your estate plan. Your agent will speak on your behalf if you become unable to do so. This is a serious duty, and choosing someone as your agent should not be a decision you make hastily.

Who is right for the job?

Your health care directive outlines your wishes for a variety of situations, such as when you want doctors to resuscitate you and how long your medical team should allow you to remain on life support, if that should be necessary. However, a health care directive may not cover every contingency, so you can authorize someone to step in and make those difficult decisions. The most effective power of attorney agents have the following characteristics:

  • Someone who understands the gravity of the role and is willing to take it on
  • Someone you can trust to follow through with your wishes even if he or she disagrees with you
  • Someone who is willing and able to stand up to other family members who may disagree with your wishes or your agent’s actions
  • Someone who has a general understanding of medical procedures, is familiar with your health care issues and knows the questions to ask
  • Someone who can communicate clearly and concisely to doctors and other family members, especially in highly emotional situations
  • Someone who lives close by in case of an emergency

If you have a health care power of attorney, your loved ones may not be standing in the hospital corridors arguing over what they should do for you. A well-chosen agent can act with authority and according to his or her understanding of your wishes. You can see that your choice of agent will not be easy, and you may find it helpful to obtain advice and guidance from your attorney, who has had much experience helping others in your situation.