Choosing a Health Care Surrogate (HCS) is a critical part of a client’s estate plan, since the person that the client is appointing may determine his or her future healthcare needs. However, most clients concentrate on their wills or trusts and spend very little time considering who should have the important responsibility of healthcare decisions.
When choosing a HCS, most clients will select among their family members. A family member is usually the obvious choice but may not be the best choice. A client should ask himself or herself the following questions: Does the family member have the temperament and common sense to act as a HCS? Does this person know what the client wants, and will he or she carry out the client’s wishes, especially under pressure? Is it wise to appoint someone who lives far away and may be unable to assess the situation when a complicated medical procedure is required? If a client’s child lives in another state and has his or her own children, it may be difficult for the child to travel to the client’s home state to assess the situation and make the best medical decisions.
Assuming that the client wants to appoint a family member and considers the above issues, which family member should be appointed? Typically, if the client has children, he or she will appoint the oldest one first with other children as alternates. The client can appoint the family member who best fulfills the criteria that was discussed above. Sometimes, a parent may appoint two or more children to act together, either for purposes of family harmony or to bring all of the children together for a more thoughtful decision.
If there are no family members that the client wishes to appoint as a HCS, a close family friend or a family physician can be appointed to make healthcare decisions. There are even cases where the client has close family but prefers a non-family member to make healthcare decisions. This may be due either to the lack of confidence in the client’s family members or to just the nature of the relationship with the non-family member. A domestic partner is an excellent example of a non-family member who is typically appointed as a HCS.
In conclusion, clients engaged in the estate planning process should consider the appointment of a HCS as critical as the drafting of provisions in their wills or trusts. Choosing family members or non-family members and single surrogate or multiple surrogates are just two of the issues that should be considered by the client before selecting a Health Care Surrogate. For more information and a FREE phone consultation, please call our Miami office at (305) 274-0955.