What Is a Healthcare Agent?

A Healthcare Agent is an individual appointed to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. This appointment is usually made within the Medical Power of Attorney section of an Advance Healthcare Directive ('Living Will' document). The term "Healthcare Agent" might also be referred to as a Healthcare Proxy, Surrogate, Attorney-in-Fact, among other terms.

What Can a Healthcare Agent Do?

A Healthcare Agent is responsible for making critical healthcare decisions for you when you're unable to make these decisions yourself. Although the scope of their authority can vary by state, common responsibilities include:

  • Deciding when to start or stop treatment.
  • Choosing the types of treatment you should receive.
  • Making decisions regarding the continuation of life support.

Additionally, a Healthcare Agent ensures that your healthcare providers adhere to your wishes as outlined in your Living Will. The Living Will is also where you can specify your healthcare preferences in advance.

Choosing Your Healthcare Agent

Who to Consider Appointing as a Healthcare Agent

When selecting a Healthcare Agent, you have the flexibility to choose almost any adult, with exceptions typically including your doctor or anyone employed by your doctor. It's common to appoint family members or close friends for this role.

Criteria for Selecting a Healthcare Agent

  • Trustworthiness: Choose someone you trust implicitly.
  • Familiarity: Your agent should know you well enough to make decisions that align with your values and wishes.
  • Resilience: Consider someone capable of making tough decisions under stress and effectively communicating with your family and loved ones.

The Importance of Naming Backup Healthcare Agents

We strongly encourage naming backups! It's wise to appoint one or more backup Healthcare Agents in case your primary choice is unable to serve. This ensures that someone is always available to make decisions on your behalf, safeguarding against unforeseen circumstances.

The Relationship Between a Living Will and a Healthcare Agent

A Living Will is a document that specifies your wishes regarding medical treatment in situations where you're unable to communicate these preferences yourself. There may be scenarios not covered by your Living Will; in these instances, your Healthcare Agent will make decisions in line with your expressed wishes and values. This collaborative framework between a Living Will and a Healthcare Agent ensures comprehensive coverage of your healthcare preferences.

How to Add or Edit Your Healthcare Agent 

While you cannot directly modify the Healthcare Agents named in the final 'Living Will' document that you see in the Estate Plan tab in your account, you can make change your healthcare agent designation by:

  1. Navigating to the Summary tab of your Estate Plan.
  2. Scrolling down to the 'Health care' section.
  3. Click Edit and click through the questions until you are prompted to name a primary healthcare agent.
  4. Changes to your Healthcare Agent will then be reflected in your 'Living Will'.


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