Estate planning can seem challenging, especially if you do not have the right help. While writing a will or establishing a trust does not have to be difficult, an unfortunate number of people across Arkansas and the United States lack even the foundations of a rudimentary estate plan. After all, estate planning is about more than establishing a legacy and disbursing gifts to heirs. Done right, an estate plan could also help you protect your health, even when you are still alive.
The Health Care Power of Attorney
While nobody wishes to find themselves incapacitated, accidents, injuries, and illnesses are unavoidable. The health care power of attorney is a special estate planning instrument that helps you retain control over your body if you are ever physically or mentally incapacitated. By delegating somebody the medical power of attorney, you effectively empower them to make health care decisions on your behalf. Ideally, this person is someone who is acquainted with your personal values and preferences and who can be trusted to act in accordance with both your best interests and beliefs.
Someone who is given this power of attorney may be called a “health care proxy.” The health care proxy may speak to doctors, view your medical records, and act in your stead. Ideally, the proxy will be able to follow written, planned instructions that detail how you would like to address critical care and resuscitative treatment.
How to Choose a Health Care Proxy
People often designate a spouse, parent, or relative as a health care proxy. However, you can delegate the health care power of attorney to anyone you trust to have your best interests in mind, including a close friend or another non-family member. Before choosing a proxy, you should consider:
Where do they live?
You do not have to live in the same house, city, or state as your health care proxy. However, geographical proximity can be helpful, as you might need someone to make fast decisions in the immediate aftermath of a serious or life-threatening accident.
Do they know what matters to you?
Your health care proxy should understand what treatments you would or would not approve in a critical care scenario. Estate planning attorneys often recommend that the medical power of attorney be accompanied by several explanatory documents that list, at a bare minimum, your care needs and preferences.
Do they understand your beliefs?
Your proxy should not only know what you want—they should understand why you might want or refuse certain treatments. Being able to understand your beliefs, sense of morality, and decision-making processes will help your proxy honor and respect your wishes.
Are they willing to make difficult decisions?
Health care proxies can be asked to make difficult, emotionally challenging decisions. Your health care proxy should be someone who is willing to put your beliefs and best interests above their own.
Can they be assertive?
The medical power of attorney could demand a candidate who knows how to make fast, on-the-spot decisions. If a potential proxy cannot say “no,” or constantly second-guesses themselves, they might not be suited for the position.
Who Can Act as a Health Care Proxy in Arkansas
In general, most adults are eligible to act as a proxy. However, Arkansas prohibits the following:
- Anyone under the age of 18
- Your health care provider
- The operator of a health care facility
The following people also cannot be a health care proxy unless they are related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption:
- An employee of your health care provider
- An employee of a health care facility
Delegating the Health Care Power of Attorney
The Arkansas Code affords the health care power of attorney significant authority. Under most circumstances, the proxy’s decisions are final and cannot be challenged or overruled unless there is a compelling reason to believe that the agent is not acting in the patient’s best interests.
In order to execute the health care power of attorney, you must:
- Create a written agreement naming the proxy.
- Sign the document.
- Have the health care power of attorney attested to and signed by at least two witnesses, both of whom must have reached at least the age of 18.
Contact Quraishi Law & Wealth Today
If you or a loved one is considering designating someone as a health care proxy, Quraishi Law & Wealth can help you ensure that your estate plan is compliant with Arkansas state law. Our community-oriented team of estate planning professionals can help you protect your health and lay the foundation for a legacy that could enrich you in life and create a compassionate legacy. Please send us a message or call us at 870-275-4304 to schedule your initial consultation as soon as possible.