One of the most important documents in your estate plan may be your advance health care directive. In Colorado, there’s more than one type of form you can use for this, including a living will.
Regardless of the document(s) you choose, it’s crucial that you make your wishes known for your care if you’re seriously injured or ill and unable to speak for yourself. Among the things you can designate is under what circumstances you would want life-sustaining measures like nutrition, hydrating and breathing assistance ended.
Along with putting this document in place and ensuring that your primary care provider has a copy, you should designate a person to act as your health care agent (also known as a surrogate or proxy) and give them medical durable power of attorney (MDPOA) to act on your behalf.
This person will have your authorization to talk with your medical team and to make decisions on your behalf — but based on the wishes you’ve stated in your advance directive.
Qualities a health care agent should have
Choosing a health care agent requires careful thought. Ideally, you should select someone who:
- Knows you and understands your values
- Is comfortable advocating for your designated wishes
- Will be able to receive information calmly and make decisions at a difficult time
- Will be accessible when needed
- Won’t be intimidated by doctors or family members
You should also review your directive, or at least your wishes, with your chosen representative to make sure they are willing and feel able to take on the responsibility if needed before you codify all of this.
If you’re married, you likely assume that your spouse will take on this role. However, it’s still best to officially designate them as your health care agent, along with an alternate in case you’re involved in a joint accident together. Codifying this will leave no room for confusion with other family members that you want your spouse to have this authority.
Even if you’re not ready to put a will and other estate planning documents in place, all adults should have an advance directive and a health care agent with MDPOA. With experienced legal guidance, you can rest assured that this essential estate planning task has been properly completed.