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What is a health care proxy?

When creating an estate plan, it's important to consider what would happen to you in the event that you become incapacitated.

This is where a health care proxy comes into play. With this legal document, you have the right to appoint a health care agent to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to do so on your own.

As long as you are 18 years of age or older, of sound mind and under no undue influence, you have the legal right to create a health care proxy. This doesn't mean you have to create this document, but you are able to do so if you desire.

Here's how a health care proxy works: If you become incapacitated and are unable to make medical decisions on your own, your agent steps in to carry out your wishes in regards to treatment and other important decisions.

If you're going to create a health care proxy, don't name a person as your agent until you first discuss it with him or her. This is a big responsibility, and you need to make sure the person is up for it.

If at any point you want to cancel your health care proxy or appoint a new agent, you have the right to do so.

There is a lot to think about when creating an estate plan. You need to focus on more than what will happen to your assets upon your death. You also have to think about your health and wellbeing while you're alive, which is why so many people create a health care proxy.

Source: Massachusetts Guardianship Association, "Alternative to Guardianship: A Health Care Proxy," accessed Nov. 29, 2017

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