All states have laws that authorize you to create a special Power of Attorney in which you designate an agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. These Healthcare Powers of Attorney can also be used to provide instructions to your agent concerning the type of care you do or do not want to receive if disabled, seriously ill, or injured.

It is important to get professional advice when preparing a Healthcare Power of Attorney because each state has its own requirements for how the document is to be signed, how many agents may be used at any given time, and restrictions on the types of medical decisions that may or may not be made by an agent. Also, because the person you appoint as your healthcare agent could literally have life and death decision-making authority over you, selection of an agent should be done with the utmost care.

The person you select for your health care agent should be someone who not only knows you well, but also understands your views about continuing health care in circumstances where you are terminally ill or suffering from a permanent loss of consciousness. Remember, these are decisions of the heart and don’t necessarily require the same financial skills you might want to see in a trustee. In fact, the person who is the best with a dollar may be the very last person you would want making these life and death decisions for you.

Your spouse, other family members, or close friends are usually good candidates to be the health care agent. But whomever you chose, it is important that you thoroughly discuss with your agent your desires concerning whether you should receive or refuse healthcare services under various situations.

Your estate planning attorney should be able to provide you with a list of questions that address these issues to go over with your intended healthcare agent.