A health care surrogate can be an incredible asset to a person nearing the end of their life, suffering from a debilitating illness, or experiencing a traumatic accident. By assigning a surrogate, a person can ensure that medical decisions can be made in their best interests. The experienced attorneys at Lacey Lyons Rezanka are here to help.
Health Care Surrogate Basics
A health care surrogate is someone designated by a person (“the principal”) to make informed decisions regarding the principal’s health care if they become incapacitated and can no longer make their own decisions. They may also have access to a principal’s personal health information and receive regular updates on their health.To be designated as a health care surrogate, the surrogate must be a competent adult (aged 18 or older) and must agree to be the surrogate. Furthermore, a surrogate may only be chosen using a properly executed document authorizing that individual as a surrogate. Two witnesses must oversee the execution of the health surrogate document and sign their names to the legal instrument. Only one of the witnesses may be the principal’s spouse or blood relative.
Picking a Health Care Designee
When picking a healthcare surrogate, a principal should choose a surrogate they can trust to make important health care decisions and receive sensitive health information. Once incapacitated, the surrogate has complete control to decide what’s in the best medical interest of the principal so long as the surrogate is informed of the principal’s health.In many instances, a principal may have a legal relationship with another person (usually a spouse, parent, sibling, or child) that they may not completely trust because of a soured relationship or that person’s inability to make critical decisions. By designating a surrogate, a principal can bypass that legal relationship by placing the responsibility of making important health decisions with a person they completely trust.
How is a Health Care Surrogate Different from Other Forms of Estate Planning?
More often than not, most people are less familiar with a health care surrogate versus other forms of estate planning like a power of attorney (POA) or living will. Although the designated person may seem limited, it comes with specific benefits for a principal’s needs.Under a POA, a designee acts as a principal’s agent for any health care, financial, or legal decision impacting the principal. Unless a POA is designed to be durable (exist after a principal’s incapacity), it ends once the principal can longer make their own decisions. Alternatively, some may opt for a Living Will, but that also has some limitations. For example, living Wills can be used to outline specific instructions for end-of-life care and particular life-changing events but cannot account for all situations. Thus, designating a healthcare surrogate provides a principal flexibility and narrows the scope of decisions to strictly healthcare-related issues.
Revoking a Designation
A principal may revoke the status of a health care surrogate at any time they can make that decision. A principal may also designate an alternative surrogate if the original surrogate refuses to continue acting in their official capacity or can no longer make decisions.
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one is interested in considering a health care surrogate, our experienced Melbourne estate planning attorneys at Lacey Lyons Rezanka can help. Contact us today for a consultation.