Advance health care directives are among the most important estate planning documents you can create. They allow you to express your wishes about end-of-life care, and give you the opportunity to appoint an agent to be in charge of making your medical decisions if you can no longer do so on your own.
For an advance health care directive to be successful, it is important to choose the right person to be your agent. Certain qualities can make a person better suited to carry out this responsibility on your behalf.
Of course, your health care agent should be someone you trust to act in your best interests at all times. However, this person may also be put in difficult situations or asked to make tough decisions, so choosing someone who is assertive — and possibly willing to make an unpopular choice — is imperative.
Next, the physical location of the person you choose makes a difference. If you become ill and health care decisions need to be made, your agent will likely need to be wherever you are for an extended period of time. This may rule out choosing someone who lives far away from you.
In addition to proximity, it is also wise to choose someone who is likely to outlive you. This may seem a bit morbid, but it can make a difference. A responsible child, for example, may be a better option than a trusted friend who is close to you in age.
Finally, think carefully about the potential dynamic between your agent and others involved in your life. Consider how your family will respond to your choice. Also consider your financial agent, if you have one. Remember, that you can choose the same person to handle your finances and health care. If you want separate people, remember that any disagreements they have could lead to problems.
In the end, no matter who you choose, it is wise to explain your choice to those who may be affected by it, including your family members. Serious health matters are difficult and emotional for families, so making sure they understand what you want and why you chose the agent you did can help minimize the risk of conflict down the road.