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Use caution when choosing your health care agent

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Long-Term Care Planning |

When you’re putting your estate plan together, one of the things that you may choose to do is to establish advance directives regarding your end-of-life care. These are designed to guide doctors and hospitals about your medical wishes, should you ever be unable to speak for yourself.

But no advance directive can sufficiently anticipate every possible medical situation or question that has to be answered. That’s why Maryland urges people to choose a health care agent, which is also known as a durable power of attorney for health care.

Choose your health care agent carefully

This is one time when everybody has a right to be selfish. Before you name your spouse, romantic partner or oldest child as your health care agent, make sure that they’re actually up to the job. Here are some things to consider each candidate:

  • Are they level-headed and calm in a medical crisis, even when things like dire?
  • Are they able to converse with doctors about medical issues, ask the appropriate questions and evaluate the answers with ease, or would they feel lost?
  • Are they assertive enough to ask for second opinions or refuse to follow a doctor’s recommendations if they believe that’s what you would want?
  • Would the be available and responsive at a moment’s notice and have the time to devote to the situation?
  • Do they understand your religious or cultural beliefs, and will the respect them and use those to guide their choices?
  • Are they strong-willed enough to withstand pressure from other members of your family who might want your care to go another way?

Generally speaking, you should designate both a primary and a secondary health care agent, just in case your primary choice is unable to serve, for any reason. As you ponder your options, legal guidance may make it easier.