As a New York estate attorney, I regularly prepare documents which protect my clients in case of their disability. One of the most important documents in an estate lawyer’s arsenal is the Health Care Proxy. The New York Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint someone you trust, such as a spouse, child, or to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are not able to make decisions for yourself. The agent’s job is to convey your wishes to your health care providers, as if you were making them. The law allows the agent to monitor your progress and adjust their instructions as your condition changes. When preparing the document, you decide which decisions the agent will be able to make. The agent can be given as much or as little authority as you feel comfortable. A health care proxy can also allow your agent to carry out your wishes with regard to organ and tissue donation, but only if you specifically provide for that. By law, your medical providers, hospitals, and other medical institutions must follow your agent’s instructions if they are presented with a validly executed health care proxy. If your agent is unable or unwilling to act, you can designate successor agents.
What Kinds of Decisions Can Your Agent Make?
You can allow your agent to make any and all health care decisions that you could have made yourself, including whether to receive or withhold treatments, which treatments to receive, how the treatments should be administered, and when treatments should cease. You also have the right to allow your agent to make decisions for you regarding artificial nutrition and hydration (nourishment provided by a feeding tube). To accomplish that, New York estate attorneys often state that the agent “knows my wishes with regards to artificial nutrition and hydration” in the health care proxy document. An agent under a health care proxy does not have the power to make non-health related decisions, such as financial decisions. For that, a statutory New York Power of Attorney should be drafted by an experienced Queens and Brooklyn estate planning attorney.
What is the Difference Between a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will?
A living will (commonly confused with a last will and testament) is a document that a person can prepare, alongside an experienced estate attorney, to provide for specific instructions about particular health care decisions. A living will informs your agent of your wishes and advises him of the decisions you would want him to make. In my estate planning/elder law practice, if a client requests a living will, I commonly incorporate it into the health care proxy in order to give the agent quick access to the client’s wishes. A health care proxy, unlike a living will, does not necessarily require that you think about the different situations which may come up; rather it allows your agent to make a determination of what your wishes would be at the time they need to be made.
What Should Be Done With a Health Care Proxy After it is Signed?
You should make multiple copies of this important advance directive and give a copy to your doctor, your health care providers, your lawyer, your agent(s), and close family members. It is prudent to keep a copy in an easily accessible location alongside your other important estate documents. If you are admitted to the hospital, even for minor surgery, bring a copy with you as well.
How Can a Health Care Proxy Be Revoked?
A health care proxy can be revoked at any time by the principal by advising the agent verbally or in writing of the revocation. Additionally, preparing a subsequent health care proxy revokes the former document. If a spouse is listed as the agent, their authority is automatically revoked following a divorce or legal separation (unless the document provides otherwise).
In summary, the New York health care proxy is an important document used to effectuate the most important directives of an individual; those involving their health care decisions. As such, it is recommended that an attorney knowledgeable in this field be consulted to advise, prepare, and properly execute this important document. The Brooklyn and Queens Law Offices of Roman Aminov invite you to contact us for a complimentary consultation at 347-766-2685.