As a Fairfax Estate Planning attorney, I believe that a Health Care Power of Attorney should be included in every estate plan. A properly created Health Care Power of Attorney allows someone to make important medical decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself.
Choosing the person who will act in this role is often a difficult decision, as the job requires taking on a great deal of responsibility. For that reason, I advise my clients to choose an Agent with caution and care.
In my years practicing, I’ve found that most people will grant this role to an adult child, if they have one. While that is fine, I often encourage people to think twice before appointing ALL of their kids to this role, as it can have unfortunate and unforeseen consequences. In most cases, selecting just one adult child for the job is best. Here are a few reasons why:
- Medical emergencies are often unexpected and can arise at inconvenient times. If you have named multiple agents, they will all have to be contacted in order for a decision to be reached. This can be problematic when every second of your medical care counts.
- Adult siblings often disagree. You know better than anyone that your children are unique and their personalities can be very different—setting them up for disagreements down the road regarding your medical care. Some siblings can work through such issues, but in a lot of families, the siblings never speak again because of fights about mom or dad’s care. You can spare your family from this heartache by refusing to name everyone as co-agents in the first place.
- Not everyone can handle making life and death decisions for a parent. Make sure to select an agent that is capable of handling such issues in what will likely be an already emotional and challenging time.
- Choose the adult child that understands your values. An estate planning lawyer can create detailed guidelines for your agent to follow, but medical emergencies are complicated and you will have to rely on your child’s judgment. For example, if you were incapacitated and given no hope of recovery, you may wish for your kids to stop life support. But, if your adult child does not believe in this course of action, you may be given artificial life saving measures that are contrary to your wishes. So, choose wisely.
Remember, when selecting an Agent, communication is paramount and you should do all that you can to make sure all your children understand your wishes, especially your Agent. Do not be afraid to discuss end-of-life situations and be more concerned about making a solid choice, rather than hurting feelings. If you have any questions or need help drafting a Health Care Power of Attorney call Sheri Abrams, Attorney at Law at (571) 328-5795.