As the individual executing the health care proxy, also called “the principal,” you have the option to set an expiration date for your named agent’s ability to act. Whether your health proxy expires is a decision you must make at the time you sign it.
What Is a Health Care Proxy?
First, it is important to understand that a health care proxy is a document that states who can make your medical decisions if a doctor deems you unable to make them for yourself. The agent is authorized to make healthcare decisions on your behalf including any treatment, service or procedure to diagnose or treat your physical or mental condition. It is important that you name an individual that you trust to follow through with your wishes as you have discussed with them.
Specifying an Indefinite Duration
When executing the health care proxy document many individuals intend that their named agent act indefinitely. This is primarily because the agent will have the authority to act when you do not have the capacity to act. Therefore, unless you regain your capacity this person will maintain the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf. However, the New York State health care proxy form specifically states that unless you include a date or conditions upon which it expires, it will last for an indefinite duration.
Specifying Limitations Based on Duration or Circumstance
In certain circumstances, you may wish to specify a date or condition in which your health care proxy expires. For example, if you live in New York and your health care proxy names your daughter as your agent, but you are planning a trip to stay with your son in California for an extended amount of time and you would like him to have the authority to assist you. In this instance, you could execute a new document naming your son and state on the form that the proxy shall expire on a certain date or simply when you return to New York. This little-known option within the health care proxy form is useful for individuals who travel often and have alternate agents they wish to name for a limited period of time or under certain specified conditions.
Your Attorney Can Help You Plan Ahead
Whether or not you decide to put a time limit or other conditions on your health care proxy, it is important that you sign one. Your estate planning attorney can help. In the event of an emergency you want to make sure that the person making healthcare decisions for you is someone that you have chosen and that you have discussed your wishes with.