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Setting up a healthcare proxy

Setting up a healthcare proxy and putting together advanced care directives is a very important part of estate planning. Yet for some Minnesotans it presents a challenge since there might be a lack of suitable person to appoint as a proxy. Particularly for those without children or any nearby younger relatives, finding the right person to step in and help in the event of incapacity can be difficult to do.

This circumstance is more common than many realize and touches on many areas of the estate planning process. Most significantly for many is the issue of health care proxies and powers of attorney. Many people turn to friends or relatives for these duties but for those who live far from family and have friends mainly in their own age group, these options might not be ideal.

Some experts have proposed the concept of a professional healthcare fiduciary. This is a field not yet in existence but on paper the suggestion seems to solve for some of the key problems faced by older Minnesotans when they are creating their estate plans. In order to be effective, the hired healthcare proxy would ideally be someone with a background in healthcare or the law, such as a retired nurse or paralegal. There would also need to be a method for insuring their trustworthiness, such as including background checks and associating them with a larger organization with effective oversight.

Having the ability to hire a knowledgeable and trustworthy advocate to document healthcare preferences and advocate for those preferences might be desirable even for those who do have living children or other younger relatives willing to take on the task, since it can be emotionally taxing and close relatives might have a hard time honoring something like a wish not to be put on life support.

Source: New York Times, “Hiring an End-of-Life Enforcer,” Paula Span, Oct. 24, 2013. 

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