If you are like many in North Carolina, your health is important to you. Even if you don’t always make the right diet choices or exercise as much as you should, you know that, once your health declines, your quality of life may never be the same. If the time should come when poor health prevents you from making your own decisions about your medical care, do you know what will happen to you?
You can have more certainty about this if you have a health care power of attorney in place in case you should become incapacitated at some point in your life. Understanding what a health care power of attorney can do for you is the first step to obtaining this peace of mind about your health. The next step, choosing the appropriate agent, may be more difficult.
What should I look for?
A health care power of attorney essentially gives someone whom you trust the authority to make medical decisions in your name if you should be unable to discuss matters with your doctor. Without this designation, your loved ones may have to seek a court order to override the various privacy laws that protect your rights. Choosing someone to carry this responsibility is not something you should do rashly or out of any sense of obligation. Instead, consider these factors:
- Someone who lives close to you would be more available if you became ill in an emergency.
- Your power of attorney agent should be someone with high morals and integrity who has nothing to gain from you, such as an inheritance.
- You certainly want to select someone who will respect and honor your wishes even if he or she disagrees with them.
- Your power of attorney should have the ability to stand up against your other friends and family members who may disagree with your wishes.
- Whomever you choose to serve as your agent should know in advance and be willing to accept the responsibility.
You would be wise to discuss your wishes for the kinds of medical care you desire and those treatments you wish doctors to withhold. You can also leave instructions for your power of attorney agent concerning the circumstances for when you would want all lifesaving measures to stop and how far you expect doctors to go in providing extraordinary measures.
Speaking with a North Carolina estate planning attorney can give you a great deal of important information and guidance about choosing a power of attorney and providing adequate instructions. You may also learn about other estate planning tools that would be appropriate for your circumstances.