old manChoosing your health care power of attorney is an incredibly important decision, as the person you authorize­­ — known also as an agent — will be able to make important decisions on your behalf if you can no longer communicate or become medically incapacitated, as in the instance of a coma.

When it comes to choosing a health care agent, individuals often choose people they know and are close to, such as spouses, partners, close friends, siblings or relatives. When engaged in this aspect of estate planning, it’s important to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing your plans and wishes for medical treatment and who may already have knowledge of your medical history.

How much power does your health care agent have?

Although your health care agent may not agree with your medical plans entirely, they are legally obligated to carry out your wishes, so it always helps to choose agents who will respect your beliefs even if they have conflicting feelings themselves.

Because these medical decisions may become complicated and emotional, it’s important to keep the following considerations in mind when choosing who you would like to authorize with your health care power of attorney:

  1. Is the person located nearby? It is not mandatory that your health care agent live on the same island or area as you, but they may have to be on constant call if you contract a long-term illness to help ensure your physicians follow your medical wishes.
  2. Is the person confident and assertive? Occasionally, your health care agent may have to carry out your wishes in the face of conflicting opinions from your friends and family members and medical staff.
  3. Are you naming a separate financial agent? It’s somewhat common for agents authorized separately with power of attorney for health care and finances to run into conflicts, so it might be a good idea to authorize the same person for both powers.
  4. Are you naming an alternative agent? Strongly consider naming a back-up health care agent, whom you also trust, in case your current agent resigns, passes away or becomes incapacitated.
  5. Are you naming a health care provider as your agent? To prevent bias, it’s recommended that you avoid naming a doctor or employee of a health care organization as your agent, unless you are married or related to that person.

Above all, your health care agent should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes as fully and precisely as you’ve outlined. Make sure you prepare ahead of time and cover all possible scenarios with this important individual.

BoltNagi is a respected estate planning law firm serving individuals and families throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.