Whom can I assign?
Everyone 18 or over can assign an agent to make health decisions in the situation in which they are unable to communicate for themselves due to illness or incapacity. The assigned agent must be 18 years or older. Typically, the assigned agent is a highly trusted family member or friend. In some states, there are restrictions, however. If the patient lives in a senior care center, there may be limits against an employee of the facility being assigned as an agent. Health care professionals, doctors or nurses who provide care to the patient can be restricted in certain states. They must choose between serving as an agent or being the patient’s health provider. Some states restrict family or friends who are beneficiaries in the patient’s will from being agents, as this is viewed as a potential conflict of interest.
In all cases of assignment, it is recommended that the agent becomes familiar with the health care priorities and preferences of the patient. Their responsibility to make health decisions will take effect when health care providers find that the patient is no longer capable of making decisions for him or herself.
Estate and family planning lawyers can help create documents to name an agent for health decisions. But, a lawyer is not required. Each state provides forms that a patient can access online to print out and have signed in order for the agent to be legally enforceable.