A healthcare proxy allows a person to make medical decisions for you, it assigns the person you want to authorize to make these decisions for you. Power of attorney on the other hand makes financial decisions for you. These two documents appoint people to make important decisions in the event that you or your loved one become incapacitated. “Technically, both of these terms refer to a legal document, rather than the person appointed for decision-making. Colloquially, however, they are often used in reference to the person who has been assigned the duties outlined in the document. The person on whose behalf decisions are made (for instance, your parent or loved one) is the principal of the document. The decision-maker, or person appointed by the principal, is the agent. The primary difference between these documents is the specific type of decisions that they give the agent charge of.”
Power of Attorney: “This legal document gives another person, the agent, the right to make decisions pertaining to your finances. You proscribe the actual powers that you want to give the agent, which can be very narrow or very broad per your choosing. For example, you can choose whether you want your agent to be able to buy real property in your name, sell real property, collect governmental benefits, operate your business, manage your retirement accounts, transfer property, change your beneficiaries, file and pay your personal income taxes, buy insurance policies on your behalf, invest on your behalf or tap into your assets to help pay for your daily expenses and your family’s expenses. Whether you give your power attorney broad or narrow powers, he or she must act in your best interest and avoid any conflicts of interests between the power of attorney and you.”
Health Care Proxy: “Any adult of 18 years or older may be a health care proxy. People usually choose a close friend or a family member as an agent. If the principal names a spouse as their health care agent and they get divorced or separated, the spouse can’t act as a proxy.
The principal can also decide to appoint their doctor as the health care agent, in which case the doctor can’t treat them anymore. Before signing a health care proxy, the principal should discuss the powers granted in the document with their potential agent. When the principal chooses an agent, they need to make sure that the healthcare providers will honor their wishes. The agent will start making decisions on behalf of the principal once the doctor determines that the principal is no longer able to do so. In case the principal didn’t appoint anyone as a health care proxy, the court will assign someone to make medical decisions in their stead.”
Choosing a healthcare proxy: “An ideal healthcare or medical proxy agent is going to be able to put aside their own preferences and prioritize the principal’s wishes. For example, your loved one may pose objections to being offered drastic lifesaving measures. An appropriate healthcare proxy will prioritize the principal’s choices regardless of their own preference or prior biases. They will carry out those wishes even if saying goodbye is painful.
If a possible medical proxy agent has religious or moral beliefs that would prevent them from carrying out the principal’s health care directives, then this person probably isn’t a proper candidate.”
This article is not intended to provide legal advice. In addition to this, readers are encouraged to do further research as laws may have changed since publication. Each case is different and you should contact an experienced lawyer to understand the nuances behind elder laws and how it affects each case.